Wildrose leader introducing bill to make justice system more transparent

Wildrose leader introducing bill to make justice system more transparent

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean will introduce a private member's bill Tuesday to compel the government to release data to the public on delays, mistrials, stays and plea bargains in the Alberta justice system.

Jean said Bill 201, the Justice System Accountability Act, will compel the justice minister to table an annual report on the system in hopes it will show what is causing the delays and where the bottlenecks are occurring.

"Not only will the transparency help identify the problems, but the accountability from it should get the attention of the entire ministry and ensure we do better for Albertans on a year-to-year basis," he said.

Jean said the information is already being tracked by the justice ministry so he doesn't expect it would create additional work to release it to the public.

Jean's move comes after 15 cases in Edmonton were stayed due to lack of resources in the court system.

A Supreme Court of Canada ruling, known as the Jordan decision, places new limits on how long accused people must wait for their matters to go to trial.

Court of Queen's Bench case trials must now be concluded within 30 months, and provincial court matters within 18 months, with an extension to 30 months if the case includes a preliminary inquiry.

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley has said the province is actively recruiting to fill the four Crown prosecutor vacancies in Wetaskiwin and the eight to 10 vacancies in Edmonton. There will soon be a drive to recruit new clerks. 

Ganley said the government regularly releases updates on the number of Jordan applications

She said she would need to see the text of Jean's bill before she could comment in detail on it, but she suggested there are no easy fixes.

"If I could tell you exactly what the one thing it is in the system that's causing a backlog that I could change instantly; a) I would have done it already; and b) I think that the system would be functioning much better," she said. 

Since October 2016, Alberta lawyers have filed 67 Jordan applications. Of those, 14 applications are pending, 18 have been dismissed and six have been granted.

The remaining applications were abandoned by the defence (14), stayed by the Crown (6), or resolved (9). One application has been appealed by the Crown.