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CBC: Justice system needs overhaul

January 26, 2017 — 

As CBC reports:

A former Manitoba deputy justice minister says he wants to see major changes to streamline court proceedings after a judge dismissed a case involving child sexual assault charges because of lengthy delays.

“We’re handling criminal cases in much the same way that we handled them during the era of Charles Dickens. That has to change,” said Bruce MacFarlane, once a Manitoba deputy justice minister and deputy attorney general, and currently a criminal law professor at the University of Manitoba….

MacFarlane says without major changes to the province’s court system, more cases will be at risk of being dismissed for exceeding the 30-month deadline.

“Frankly, I think that we need to do business differently. Now, that’s going to take a while,” MacFarlane said.

MacFarlane said he wants to see an “attitudinal change” at every level of the justice system. Up to this point, he said the legal culture has been “that cases just kind of chug along and are at the mercy of everybody’s schedule.”

“Across the country, I think that there will be cases that are dismissed and there will be local anxiety, if not anger, over the dismissal. And that probably will last for, well, as long as it takes to change the system,” MacFarlane said.

“My worry is that to change it in the way I think that we need to change it, it’s going to take quite a while. And so in the midst of that change, cases are at risk and further cases will be dismissed.”

MacFarlane said Canada needs to swap out its current protocol for court adjournments, which requires the defence, Crown and judge in a case to be present and can fall victim to scheduling issues.

Some countries use a different system of “administrative adjournments,” MacFarlane said, that allow an adjournment to be processed on paper and not through an in-person meeting of all the parties.

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