November 30, 2016 5:05 pm
Updated: November 30, 2016 5:42 pm

Quebec court delays amount to a crisis: PQ

WATCH ABOVE: Hundreds of people accused of crimes could go free without ever having to stand trial due to delays in court proceedings. As Global's Raquel Fletcher reports, the Parti Québécois are calling it a crisis in the province's justice system.

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Another case could fail to go to trial due to court delays in Quebec.

Engineer Tom Harding is facing 47 charges of criminal negligence causing death for the Lac-Mégantic train explosion. His lawyer is asking for the case to be thrown out.

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“In this particular situation, the other three accused people have had a lot of difficulty retaining and keeping – for one reason or another – the lawyer that they started with and that’s the thing that’s really been at the bottom of the excess delays,” Tom Walsh said. “It’s a question of the Crown biting off more than they can chew.

“To have this hanging over his head and not know what’s waiting for him, it’s basically like keeping his life on hold. In this case for like four years,” Walsh added.

This is certainly not the first time court delays put a trial at risk. In October 2015, five Hells Angels charged with murder and conspiracy were released mid-trial.

“We’re really at the breaking point. I mean, 220 trials are at risk,” Parti Quebecois leader Jean-Francois Lisée said.

The Parti Quebecois says the situation is getting worse and is now a full-on “crisis.”

“It’s like an avalanche of accused people who want to get out of jail free,” Lisée said.

This summer, the Supreme Court ruled cases must be completed within 30 months from the time the charge is laid.

The PQ is calling for emergency money to be invested in the justice system. They say the minister needs to call back retired judges and open new courtrooms to hear more cases.

Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée presented an action plan in October that was supposed to produce short-term results. She says these initiatives proposed by the opposition are “being looked into.”

“It’s complex. It’s not something that we can do instantly because it has some evaluation of the needs. For example, how many more attorneys are required? How many more judges are required?” Vallée said.

As recently as Tuesday, the minister was uncertain about how many trials could be thrown out. She says she’ll have an announcement about the issue, but wouldn’t say when.

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