BLITZ COURT TO TACKLE BACKLOG IN PEEL
The Mississauga News
More judges and prosecutors have been assigned to a “blitz court,” aimed at eliminating the growing backlog of criminal cases in Peel Region.
“This should have a huge impact on the trial backlog situation,” Peel’s police chief, Noel Catney, said during a recent briefing for regional council.
Six judges, six assistant Crown attorneys and an identical number of courtrooms will be added for the blitz between Sept 1 and Dec 17, Catney said. There are about 12, 600 cases that have been tied up in the system for eight months or longer, due to a lack of judges and Crowns to handle the volume, Catney said, adding that long delays are especially tough on the victims of serious crimes/
In 1990, Peel’s court system became so clogged it resulted in the landmark Askov case, in which the Supreme Court of Canada threw out extortion charges against four men because of what was found to be an unreasonable delay of three years in bringing their cases to trial.
The decision resulted in about 60,000 criminal cases being thrown out across the country, including 8,000 in Peel. At the time of Askov there were 20,000 criminal cases backlogged at the Peel courthouse, described at the time by a judge as having the worst delays “north of the Rio Grande.”
Criminal lawyers in Peel welcomed news of blitz court.
Gary Batasar said that non- complex cases taking longer than 8 to 10 months to go to trial after the date has been set exceed constitutionally acceptable standards.
“I have quite a few cases in the system now that have been going on for close to a year after the trial date was set and I’ll be bringing motions (to have them stayed) before the courts,” Batasar said.
These include impaired driving, aggravated assaults, and narcotics cases, he said.
“Quite frankly, the courthouse is not big enough. That’s a shame. The provincial government at the time (it was built) should have foreseen the phenomenal growth in Peel and that there would be more people going through he courts.”
Peels’ courthouse opened in 2000. Since then, it’s population now, about 1.1 million, has grown by 100,000.