Verdict is in: B.C. justice services more affordable, less complex, foster early resolution
October 19, 2016
British Columbia has become a leader in justice-system innovation and performance, says D. Geoffrey Cowper in the fourth-anniversary update to the 2012 report, A Criminal Justice System for the 21st Century.
Marking Access to Justice Week, Cowper’s update highlights B.C.’s progress in improving early resolution rates, achieving better timeliness in criminal justice cases and improving the handling of complex prosecutions. His conclusions echo those of Murray Segal, a former Ontario deputy attorney general, in his recent report on the B.C. Prosecution Service. Segal’s report recognized B.C. as a leading jurisdiction in Canada for innovation, collaboration and major case management.
With targeted investments and innovation, government has improved access and efficiency to meet timelines to trial for criminal cases set by the Supreme Court of Canada, in a justice system that better serves British Columbians. For example, in the year-to-date, there have only been 13 criminal cases discontinued due to unreasonable delay, down from 122 for the year prior to Cowper delivering his initial report. The reports from Cowper and Segal will help inform B.C.’s Criminal Justice Branch as the branch continues to monitor cases in light of the Supreme Court’s timelines.
Cowper also reported a “sea change” in attitudes toward collaboration and innovation in the justice and public safety sector. Results include adaptation of technology and information systems to inform management and reform initiatives across the system. Cowper also ranked Justice Summits – forums for frank discussion among justice-sector leaders to set a course for the system – and the Justice and Public Safety Council high for fostering innovation and collaboration across the sector.
Recommendations for further improvement include a refreshed mandate for the Justice and Public Safety Council, a focus on restorative justice and improved system-wide evaluation and reporting.
Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton –
“For more than a decade, the Ministry of Justice has made transparency, early resolution and technological innovation key priorities. It is British Columbians who benefit from increased access to a justice system that is more efficient. The Cowper Report turbo-charged our efforts and helped to build a justice and public safety sector that is the envy of Canada and a demonstrated leader in transforming justice services.”
Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Morris –
“This report helps frame the conversation about our criminal justice system and points out efforts that have been very successful in B.C. We continually review evolving needs and support policing that is responsive to the diverse and ever-changing needs of our communities to keep British Columbians safe.”
D. Geoffrey Cowper, partner, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP –
“In the past four years there has been real progress in reducing back logs, implementing modern systems and working together to find innovative solutions. What impressed me the most was the determination to continue with making the system work better over-all and to achieve lasting improvements. There is a good deal that needs to be done but British Columbia is proving a leader in modernising criminal justice.”
- The provincial court’s “Time to Trial” report shows that there has generally been a steady decrease in delays since 2005 for criminal, family and small claims cases.
- Today, the time to trial for provincial adult criminal half-day trial, which account for almost 40% of all cases before the provincial court, is one of the shortest it’s been in almost a decade.
- The wait for half day and two-or-more-day adult criminal trials has improved considerably from 2010 and remains below the Office of the Chief Judge standard.
Cowper Report Update October 2016: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/law-crime-and-justice/about-bc-justice-system/justice-reform-initiatives/cowper-report-4-anniversary-update.pdf
Segal Report 2016: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/law-crime-and-justice/criminal-justice/prosecution-service/reports-publications/cjb-segalreport-2016.pdf
Government White Paper Part One 2012: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/law-crime-and-justice/about-bc-justice-system/justice-reform-initiatives/whitepaperone.pdf
Government White Paper Part Two 2013: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/law-crime-and-justice/about-bc-justice-system/justice-reform-initiatives/whitepapertwo.pdf
Cowper Report August 2012: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/law-crime-and-justice/about-bc-justice-system/justice-reform-initiatives/cowperfinalreport.pdf