Ontario Making Criminal Justice System Faster and Fairer in St. Catharines and the Niagara Region
Province Appointing a New Judge, Improving Bail Services and Providing More Support for Jurors
March 20, 2017 3:00 P.M.
Ministry of the Attorney General
Ontario is moving forward with its plan to make the criminal justice system faster and fairer by implementing programs to help reduce time-to-trial and improve the bail system in St. Catharines and the Niagara Region.
The plan will enhance public safety by making it possible to resolve criminal cases faster and by making more supports and supervision available to vulnerable, low-risk individuals who come in contact with the law.
In St. Catharines and the Niagara Region, the province is:
- Hiring a new assistant Crown attorney to help reduce time-to-trial
- Enhancing the existing Bail Verification and Supervision Program provided by the John Howard Society of Niagara in St. Catharines to include increased eligibility for services, support for Weekend and Statutory Holiday court, expanded mental health programs and support for an additional 180 clients at any given time
- Funding an Indigenous support service enhancement position in St. Catharines to provide culturally appropriate bail services to Indigenous people
- Improving and expanding bail services available to Indigenous people by strengthening relationships with Indigenous organizations in the Niagara Region.
In addition, of the 13 new judges announced in December 2016, Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve of the Ontario Court of Justice has indicated that she will assign a judge to St. Catharines.
To support jurors, Ontario is providing easier access to experienced and qualified counsellors. The Juror Support Program is available to help Ontarians who have served as jurors at the end of a trial or a coroner’s inquest, if and when they need it. There are no out-of-pocket expenses for jurors, and the program is completely confidential.
Improving Ontario’s criminal justice system is part of our plan to create jobs, keep communities safe and help people in their everyday lives.
- The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires that criminal trials take place within a reasonable amount of time. In circumstances where this time has been exceeded, the judge may choose to “stay” the charges and the case would not proceed to trial.
- The decision to grant or deny bail is complex and based on the specifics of each individual case. When considering whether to recommend bail, the key factors considered by the Crown are public safety (especially for victims), attendance in court, the rights of the accused, and public confidence in the administration of justice.
- In some cases where vulnerable individuals are charged with minor offences, community-based solutions can be an effective alternative to the criminal justice system. When individuals are connected with appropriate resources and supports, they are more likely to achieve stability in the community, and less likely to commit further criminal offences.
- Jurors who have completed jury service can call 1-844-JUROR-ON (1-844-587-6766) to find out how to access the Juror Support Program.
- Jurors can choose to receive counselling in person, over the phone, by email or videoconference in English or French. They will also receive disability accommodation.
“Ontario’s criminal justice system must work to protect the interests of all people — victims, the public and the accused — and keep our communities safe. We are working on all fronts to ensure that cases get to court faster so that people have confidence in our criminal justice system. Our investments here in St. Catharines and the Niagara Region will help make it possible for vulnerable, low-risk people to be safely released in the community with the supervision and support they need.”
“I am pleased to support the resources and program investments in the criminal justice system here in St. Catharines and the surrounding region. I believe that these changes will go a long way to helping keep our community safe while at the same time ensuring that our most vulnerable citizens get the help they need. Improving support for jurors will ensure that there is help available if and when it’s needed.”
“This investment will help to ensure an effective and efficient justice system in Ontario. Increasing resources across the system allows for a more comprehensive evaluation of each client and the specific circumstances that have brought them into conflict with the law. With better community planning, we can decrease unnecessary detention holds, without compromising community safety. The increased investment also includes funding for programming that is imminently needed by clients suffering with addictions and mental health concerns.”