AUMA recently wrote to the province to request action to address the backlog in court cases that stem from budget cuts over the past three years. The backlog is a significant safety concern since a Supreme Court of Canada ruling indicates that court cases beyond an 18 month period can be stayed (i.e., stopped) as they violate the accused’s right to be tried within a reasonable time. Currently, there are 1,244 provincial court cases that exceed 18 months, with an additional 1,449 cases that are almost at that mark. Approximately 40 per cent involve serious and violent offences. To date, six prosecutions relating to first degree murder, aggravated sexual assault, fraud and impaired driving have been stayed as they exceeded the 18 month timeframe.
In response, the province confirmed that an additional $14.5 million will be added to the 2017 budget to address this resourcing issue. In addition to the 15 Crown prosecutors that are being hired to fill vacancies, 35 new Crown prosecutor positions have been added, along with an additional 30 support staff, including clerks and data entry personnel.
“I’m pleased that the Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association approached AUMA about this issue and that Minister Ganley responded to our advocacy,” said AUMA President Lisa Holmes. “We hope that the Minister will take similar action to increase the resources for front line policing”, she said.
President Holmes’ comments were echoed by municipal leaders across the province. “This welcome funding will increase the effectiveness of investments in policing made by communities like Grande Prairie, helping to ensure those who are accused of crimes face the courts in a timely manner” said. Bill Given, Mayor, Grande Prairie.