R. v. Jordan and R. v. Williamson,
These cases concern the right to be tried within a reasonable time.
The accused individuals in these cases endured 45 and 35 months of delay, respectively, in getting to trial. These delays are indicative of structural problems of institutional delay plaguing the justice system as a whole. The BCCLA is intervening in these cases to argue that the Charter places a constitutional obligation on government to equip the justice system with adequate resources to ensure cases are brought to trial within a reasonable time.
Delay in getting to trial may violate the liberty and security of the person of accused persons when, for example, bail conditions restrict their movement or impose other onerous conditions, and by lengthening the period of stress and stigma that accompanies an unresolved criminal charge. Delay may also undermine the ability of an accused to make full answer and defence to the charges against them, as a delay can prejudice the ability of a defendant to lead evidence, cross-examine witnesses, or otherwise raise a defence.
The BCCLA has spoken out strongly in support of adequate funding for the criminal justice system to alleviate institutional delay. In 2012, the BCCLA published Justice Denied: The Causes of B.C.’s Criminal Justice System Crisis, a submission to Geoff Cowper Q.C.’s review of B.C.’s justice system. In that report, the Association noted that the number of full-time equivalent judges in the province had dropped significantly between 2008 and 2012, legal aid had been drastically cut back, and budgets for court services, including administrative staff and security, had been significantly reduced, leading to courtroom closures and an unmanageable backlog of criminal cases. The BCCLA argued that government must commit to adequately funding the criminal justice system and must recognize that the justice system is an essential service that requires fully funded resources to fulfill its role. We will expand on that argument at the Supreme Court of Canada tomorrow.
The BCCLA is represented by Tim Dickson of Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP.
The BCCLA’s argument in this case is available here.