Crown Prosecutors Respond to Minister’s Announcement on Justice System Resources

ACAA Statement re Minister's Announcement

Crown Prosecutors Respond to Minister’s
Announcement on Justice System Resources

EDMONTON, THURSDAY, MARCH 9, 2017 – The Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, The Hon. Kathleen Ganley, today announced that her government would provide for additional funding to the justice system of $14.5 million in the 2017-2018 budget. She indicated that this would include the hiring of 35 Crown Prosecutors, in addition to 15 currently being recruited, as well as 30 court clerks.

While we welcome Ms. Ganley's recognition that there is a serious resource shortage in the criminal justice system, the Alberta Crown Attorneys' Association does not believe the announced positions will be sufficient to bring criminal court caseloads to manageable levels.

As we understand the Minister's announcement, the announced Crown Prosecutor positions are in two groups. First, 35 existing but vacant Crown Prosecutor positions will be filled. These are positions that were not filled as prosecutors have retired or resigned since 2015. Second, additional Crown Prosecutors will be hired to conduct first appearance bail hearings – a new responsibility which the Prosecution Service is required to take on beginning in August 2017. These bail prosecutor positions will not ease the pressures that are requiring prosecutors to stay crimes due to lack of resources.

The additional positions for bail prosecutors are in response to a February 2017 Alberta Court of Queen's Bench ruling that determined that police officers should not represent the Crown in first appearance bail hearings. The ruling allowed until August 2017 for the Prosecution Service to take over this responsibility.

Similarly, we understand that the announced hiring of court clerks are not new positions. Rather, we understand that the Government is easing the hiring freeze which it had imposed on that area, such that some—not all—vacant court clerk positions can be filled. This would not increase the capacity of the courts beyond that which existed before the start of the hiring freeze in 2015.

Our Association has reached out to Minister Ganley’s staff today to clarify this announcement; however, we have not yet received a detailed response. We hope that Minister Ganley will clarify today’s announcement and advise whether it will result in an increase in trial prosecutors beyond previously approved staffing levels and, if so, how soon these new prosecutors would be hired. To be clear, the last time the Government formally reviewed whether the Prosecution Service was adequately resourced was 2007. We believe the positions announced today will do no more than bring the Prosecution Service’s staffing levels back to those set in that 2007 review.

As Ms. Ganley acknowledged in her announcement, the Government of Alberta needs to do more to increase resources to the criminal justice system. While we welcome the filling of the 35 existing and vacant Crown Prosecutor positions, we hope the Government will accept our submission that an additional 50 Crown Prosecutors are needed to meet the Prosecution Service’s trial court responsibilities.

- 30 -

About the Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association

The Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association, founded in 1971, is incorporated under the Societies Act. Its members are Crown Prosecutors employed by the Government of Alberta.

Contact:

Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association
PO Box 47039, 62 City Centre
Edmonton, AB T5J 4N1

James Pickard, President
Telephone: (587) 324-2080
Email: president@albertacrownattorneys.ca

Damian Rogers, Treasurer
Email: treasurer@albertacrownattorneys.ca

Tagged with: ,
Posted in News

Alberta’s Justice System in Crisis

ACAA Media Release - 1 Mar 2017

ACAA Backgrounder - 1 Mar 2017

JUSTICE SYSTEM FACES CRISIS,
SAY ALBERTA’S CROWN PROSECUTORS

EDMONTON, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 1, 2017 – Edmonton’s Chief Crown Prosecutor yesterday directed in the Provincial Court that 15 separate criminal prosecutions be stayed, saying that her office does not have sufficient staff resources to take the charges to trial.

These prosecutions were for significant, provable offences. This is not the first of such stays. Including these latest, approximately 200 similar criminal cases have been stayed in the last two months as a means of managing Alberta Crown Prosecutors’ overburdened caseloads.

“Alberta is failing to fund the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) at levels that adequately support the administration of justice across Alberta,” said James Pickard, President of the Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association (ACAA).

There are cumulative pressures driving the current crisis:

• Alberta’s population has grown substantially, and both the number and severity of serious crimes as increased.
• The approved number of Crown Prosecutor positions in Alberta has not changed significantly from staffing levels set in 2006 – over a decade ago.
• In order to save money, this government has imposed a hiring freeze on the ACPS. As a result, 35 approved full time equivalent positions (FTEs) are currently vacant, at a time when at least 50 new FTEs are urgently needed.
• The Jordan decision at the Supreme Court of Canada in July 2016 set stricter and clearer timelines for criminal cases.
• The combined effect of short-staffed offices and new timelines are forcing Crown Prosecutors to abandon significant prosecutions to protect the most serious and violent crimes from dismissal due to delay.

Pickard stated: “The cumulative impact of these realties is that Crown Prosecutors are staying provable charges in order to focus severely strained resources on serious and violent crimes such as murders and aggravated assaults. The charges which are being stayed include impaired driving, assault, fraud, theft and weapons charges.”

“Unless the Government of Alberta immediately begins hiring additional prosecutors to tackle the current backlog and address the pressures, more criminal prosecutions will have to be abandoned,” said Pickard.

Since the Jordan decision, the Provinces of Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland have each announced new funding for additional prosecutors to assist with the case backlogs in their jurisdictions.

“Our members know that victims of crime and communities are significantly impacted when criminal charges are stayed,” said Pickard. “Our Association advised the Deputy Minister of Justice and the Minister of Justice in November 2016 that there were too few prosecutors to handle the increasing number of criminal charges. To date, no substantive action has been taken in response to our concerns. We believe action must be taken quickly to protect Alberta’s justice system.”

- 30 -

About the Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association
The Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association, founded in 1971, is incorporated under the Societies Act. Its members are Crown Prosecutors employed by the Government of Alberta.

Contact:

Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association
PO Box 47039, 62 City Centre
Edmonton, AB T5J 4N1

James Pickard, President
Email: president@albertacrownattorneys.ca

Tagged with: ,
Posted in News

Media Advisory

ACAA Media Conference Announcement

Tuesday, February 28, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEDIA ADVISORY
ALBERTA CROWN ATTORNEYS’ ASSOCIATION

EDMONTON -- On Wednesday, March 1, the Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association will hold a
media conference in response to the stays entered today in 15 criminal prosecutions by
Edmonton’s Chief Crown Prosecutor, as well as other stays entered throughout Alberta recently,
and the implications for Alberta’s justice system.

When​: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 10:30 am

Where​: Consular Room, Westin Hotel, 10135 100 St NW, Edmonton

Who​: James Pickard, President, Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association

###

About the Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association:

The Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association, founded in 1971, is an incorporated voluntary
association. Its members are Crown Prosecutors employed by the Province of Alberta.

Contact:

Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association
PO Box 47039, 62 City Centre
Edmonton, AB T5J 4N1

James Pickard, President
president@albertacrownattorneys.ca
(587) 324-2080
www.albertacrownattorneys.ca

Posted in News

Support for Displaced ACPS Prosecutors and Staff

Ten people (including Crown prosecutors, a paralegal and support staff) are employed by the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) in Fort McMurray. They and their families are all safe and accounted for; however, they are currently displaced due to the fire.

Support from the Alberta Crown Attorneys' Association

On May 5, 2016, the ACAA provided each of these prosecutors and support staff with a contribution of $250 to assist them with the costs they have incurred during this period and that may continue to accrue.

Support from the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel

The Canadian Association of Crown Counsel voted on May 14, 2016 to contribute a total of $5,000 to assist each of the prosecutors and staff of the ACPS that was displaced. The ACAA thanks all of our colleagues across the country for this support.

Support from Our Members

On May 5, 2016, we asked for contributions from our members, other ACPS staff, and friends across Canada. $2,610 was raised in two weeks through this fundraising effort. The ACAA covered the transaction processing fees for these contributions so that all of the funds contributed could benefit our colleagues.

Total Support

As a result of contributions from our members and some friends across Canada, the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel and the ACAA, a total of $1,011 has been given to each of the ACPS staff displaced by the Fort McMurray wildfire.

Posted in News