April 25, 2014 2:13 pm

Manitoba’s justice system speeds up

Of the ten new Crown prosecutors, one will be assigned full time as a "community prosecutor" in Winnipeg's William Whyte neighbourhood.

David Lipnowski / The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG - The Manitoba government says it’s making improvements to help speed up the justice system.

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Specifically, the province is adding a new crown attorney to work as a community prosecutor in the William Whyte neighbourhood to help improve community safety. The prosecutor will work with “Block by Block”, an initiative announced last year that will improve communication between social organizations, health care providers, schools and police within the city’s troubled north end.

“There’s drug dealers and gangs, I feel like it’s getting worse,” said William Whyte resident, Cheyenne Bunne.

“It will allow that crown prosecutor to better know who in the community is really creating chaos, who’s creating havoc,  who’s hurting people, and who are the ones who are simply getting caught up,” said Justice Minister Andrew Swan.

Having a community prosecutor could benefit people charged in a neighbourhood where police say they’re frequently called.

“Police will tell you there are homes in the William Whyte area and other parts of the province that police attend 10 to 15 times a month,” said Swan. “Why don’t we actually help the police by letting them be a part of a bigger team to actually be able to get out in front of that problem so that police don’t have to go back time and time again.”

“That crown attorney, if they’re familiar with the community, they may use their discretion a bit more, they may know that a certain individual may be not the worse person and may cut them a break,” said criminal defence lawyer, Michael Dyck.

Along with the one new Crown attorney in William Whyte, another nine will work across the province. All to help move criminal cases more quickly through the justice system.

And a larger Winnipeg police disclosure unit will also grow at a cost of $300,000.

“This is going to give us the ability to have a little more police presence in that some of the administrative responsibilities are going to be shifted over to our civilian staff,” said Insp. Gord Friesen with the Winnipeg Police Service.

But these improvements don’t necessarily mean a faster justice system.

“It’s not usually a lack of crown attorneys or  a lack of police, it’s a lack of court resources, it’s a lack of judges,” said Dyck.

The ten new Crown attorneys will be hired by the end of the year at an annual cost of roughly $1 million.

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