Frustration is growing at the Edmonton Police Service, where a long list of criminal cases are being tossed out to help the court system manage the backlog.
With more cases open to the possibility of a “Jordan application” Chief Rod Knecht said the system “is presenting challenges.”
At the centre of this is the R. vs. Jordan ruling, made after Barrett Jordan, a Surrey, B.C. man, was arrested on drug charges and whose case took four years to get to trial. The 2016 Supreme Court ruling is triggering efforts to speed up the court system by imposing limits for how long a case can take from start to finish.
According to the framework, an unreasonable delay would be presumed if proceedings — from the date of charge to conclusion of a trial — exceed 18 months in provincial court or 30 months in superior court.
The result? Criminal cases are being thrown out in Alberta.
“It’s a concern for, number one: the victims. Secondarily, how society views the criminal justice system and the impact it has on police morale,” Knecht told reporters, reacting to the landmark decision for the first time.
“You have dedicated, hard working, trained police officers who are out there trying to do the very best to keep the community safe, and they’re seeing the system failing them.”
Last year, a first-degree murder case was stayed in Calgary after it took more than five years to go to trial.
In February, the Crown prosecutor’s office in Edmonton stayed 15 other criminal cases, citing a “lack of prosecution services.” The cases involve charges ranging from fraud, possession of stolen property and assault with a weapon to assault of a peace officer and impaired driving.
Knecht said he feels the most for the victims and other family members.
“We’re the ones that talk to them and see how they’ve been victimized. We see the blood and the tears and how it tears families apart.”
“They believe what the police do, and what the prosecutors do, and what the judges do, and what the correction services do, is a good thing,” he said. “That’s the foundation of a just society.”
“When they see these failings, when they put their confidence in the system and they don’t get their day in court, they’re saying ‘what’s this all about?’ and I’d be the same.”
The frustration, Knecht said, is growing.
“We do have our investigators coming to us as the executive, saying ‘this is a real buzz kill. How are we supposed to stay motivated?'”
In March, the province announced plans to hire additional crown prosecutors and support staff to help clear the backlog of cases choking Alberta’s courts.
The added cost was $14.5 million, which was announced in the 2017 provincial budget.
Watch Below: The Notley government says it plans to invest millions of dollars to address the backlogs in Alberta’s court system. Tom Vernon filed this report in March.
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