About Ontario's Plan for Faster, Fairer Criminal Justice
Ontario is improving the criminal justice system by speeding up the resolution of criminal cases. The plan will also include measures to help ensure bail decisions are faster and fairer, while balancing the need to protect the safety of the public and victims.
Ontario's plan will deliver new courtroom resources - including more judges, Crown attorneys, duty counsel and court staff - to focus on early case resolution and increase capacity in the system. It will also introduce innovative new programs to speed up decision-making at the bail stage and ensure low-risk vulnerable individuals have safe options for release in appropriate cases.
While keeping public safety a priority, Ontario is taking the following steps to help create a better-performing criminal justice system:
Faster Resolution of Criminal Cases
Hiring more assistant Crown attorneys and appointing more judges
Ontario is committed to ensuring that everyone's right to be tried within a reasonable time is respected and upheld. This is one of the hallmarks of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The plan will help ensure that trials are resolved faster by having 32 more assistant Crown attorneys and 16 more duty counsel working on cases and appointing 13 more judges to hear them. They will be supported by an additional 26 court staff. This will ensure faster justice for the accused, as well as for families and for victims who want to see cases resolved.
More Effective and Faster Bail Decision-Making
More bail vettor Crowns and new duty counsel bail coordinators
A bail vettor is an experienced Crown attorney who takes an active role in the efficient operation of bail courts to facilitate faster bail decisions and resolutions in the appropriate cases, while maintaining public safety. Dedicated bail vettors are able to provide the accused's counsel with more timely and informed bail positions.
Following the success of this program at a number of court sites, Ontario is investing new funds to ensure there are dedicated bail vettors in high-volume bail court locations across the province.
The province will also fund Legal Aid Ontario to provide experienced duty counsel bail coordinators to work in the same high-volume bail court locations as the bail vettor Crowns.
Duty counsel are defence lawyers from Legal Aid Ontario that provide short-term legal representation early in the process to accused people charged with a criminal offence.
These new duty counsel bail coordinators will work with Crowns to expedite the bail process and ensure meaningful bail decisions are made, while protecting public safety and victims of crime.
Embedded Crown counsel
Poverty, homelessness, mental illness and addictions lead many people into conflict with the law. 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.
Beginning in January 2017, the province is launching a program that will embed Crown attorneys at two police stations where they will provide real-time advice and support on bail decisions to police upon request. The embedded Crowns will also work with police and community-based health and social service agencies on meaningful alternatives to criminal charges for vulnerable, low-risk accused who do not belong in the criminal justice system.
The first embedded Crown will be on-site at Toronto Police Services' 51 Division, beginning in January 2017.
Early access to duty counsel in correctional facilities
Working in partnership with Legal Aid Ontario and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, duty counsel will be available in six correctional facilities serving high-volume courthouses, starting in 2017. This will allow duty counsel to more immediately and effectively address bail matters by providing legal advice, facilitating quicker applications for legal aid certificates and preparing an accused person for their bail hearings.
Modernizing Crown policies and procedures on bail
Former chief justice Brian Lennox, former deputy attorney general Murray Segal, and deputy Crown attorney Lori Montague have been appointed to provide advice on opportunities to modernize Crown policies and procedures in the area of bail.
These experts will consider a number of subjects related to effective and timely bail decision-making, including the use of sureties and bail conditions, the consideration of Gladue principles and specialized responses to domestic violence cases. Their advice will support the ministry's development of a new Crown policy on bail that will be released within six months.
Federal government Criminal Code changes
Over the coming months, Ontario will work with the federal government on Criminal Code reforms, including ways to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal court process, streamlining the criminal justice system and bail.
This work will include participation on the Federal Attorney General Wilson-Raybould's criminal justice roundtable.
More Bail Supervision and Support in the Community for Low-Risk Vulnerable Ontarians
Expanded and enhanced bail supervision
The Bail Verification and Supervision Program provides supervision and support to low-risk accused who do not have the finances or social ties to be released safely into the community on bail pending trial. The program ensures they are supervised while in the community, attend court dates, meet their bail conditions and helps them navigate the criminal court process. By expanding the supports and services for people suffering from mental illness and struggling with poverty, homelessness and addictions, the program will make it possible for more vulnerable accused, in appropriate cases, to be safely released in the community.
Beginning in early 2017, Ontario will:
- Expand the program to provide services for the entire province. Currently, this program services half of the province's court locations.
- Enhance existing program services and supports to facilitate the successful release on bail of low-risk accused into the community pending trial, and avoid future conflict with the law.
Specialized Bail Verification and Supervision Program staff will provide vulnerable populations, including those with mental illness and Indigenous people, with improved access to housing, medical services, treatment, and supervision in the community. The program will also be extended to serve a number of weekend court locations across the province.
Bail bed program
Homelessness or lack of stable housing is a significant factor keeping many vulnerable people in custody who may have otherwise been granted bail.
The Bail Beds program will provide safe, supportive and supervised housing for vulnerable accused persons who require enhanced supervision in the community.
The program, which will be provided by community-based agencies, will be launched in up to five locations across the province, beginning with a 20-bed facility in December 2016 in Thunder Bay.
Bail and remand program for Indigenous people
As part of Ontario's commitment towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, a new Indigenous bail and remand program is being developed. Indigenous communities, organizations and service providers are being engaged in its development and will facilitate the program.
The plan will also provide more services for Indigenous people by incorporating distinct policies, training and staff positions, so that they can remain in their communities while awaiting trial.
The Indigenous bail and remand program will launch in early 2017.
More openness and transparency in the criminal justice system
The province has been working together with the Ontario Court of Justice on improving public reporting on all criminal justice matters.
This collaboration has resulted in creating "dashboards", a statistical report that provides criminal court information on the progress of all cases from the bail phase to completion of trial in the Ontario Court of Justice at the provincial and local levels.
Dashboards will be available on the Ontario Court of Justice's website, starting in December 2016, and will be updated quarterly.