Gateway Lanes, Edmonton police union speak out after Crown drops 15 court cases

Click to play video: 'Victim of crime speaks out about tossed court cases in Alberta'
Victim of crime speaks out about tossed court cases in Alberta
WATCH ABOVE: A victim of crime is speaking out after they were impacted when the Crown's office tossed several court cases out this week because of overburdened caseloads. Vinesh Pratap reports – Mar 3, 2017

Victims and police officers affected by the Crown’s decision Tuesday to stay over a dozen criminal cases are speaking out about the “disheartening” decision.

About six months ago, a minor incident happened at the Gateway Lanes bowling alley in south Edmonton. The people involved were asked to leave, however an office was then broken into and some vandalism took place at the entertainment centre just off Gateway Blvd. and 34 Avenue. Police were called and a mischief charge was laid.

On Tuesday morning, Gateway’s criminal case, along with 14 other files, were stayed at the law courts. The city’s Crown prosecutor’s office cited a “lack of prosecution services.”

READ MORE: Crown stays 15 criminal cases; cites lack of prosecutors

The decision has left Gateway Lanes management shaking their heads.

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“People complain all the time: ‘There’s too many lawyers in this world,’ but apparently there’s not enough Crown prosecutors,” said Shawn Foran, Gateway Entertainment Centre manager. He said if a crime is committed, there should be consequences.

Foran said the people involved in his case were allegedly known to police.

“They have been involved with the system before, so who knows, depending on what they had done in the past, they could have been looking at serious consequences for their actions, and now they don’t have to face those consequences.”

“That’s something the government has to balance what they value… Save a few dollars or protect society? And that’s completely on the provincial government.”

READ MORE: ‘Swamped’ Alberta police watchdog spurs calls for better justice system funding

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Edmonton police are also impacted by the decision.

“It’s disheartening,” Det. Bob Walsh, the Edmonton Police Association’s acting president, said.

“They put all this effort into it — the time and everything else — and all of sudden now for no reason other than the fact that the resources aren’t there, they get pulled. The charges either get stayed or pulled.

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Walsh said cases have been thrown out before, but the union president can’t recall the reason ever being because of a lack of manpower.

“And to have these files thrown out without having to hear a hearing on them, it’s very frustrating for our people and for the citizens of Edmonton as well,” Walsh added.

Click to play video: 'Concern growing over number of court cases being dropped in Alberta'
Concern growing over number of court cases being dropped in Alberta

WATCH ABOVE: On Tuesday, we learned 15 cases in Alberta won’t go to court because the Crown prosecutor’s office is stretched too thin. As Vinesh Pratap reports, concern about cases being dropped is growing.

The Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association is calling for more resources.

On Wednesday, the ACAA said the province needs to lift a hiring freeze on Crown prosecutors and add at least 50 new positions.

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The ACAA said approximately 200 similar criminal cases have been stayed in the last two months.

Click to play video: 'Concerns raised over number of Alberta prosecutors'
Concerns raised over number of Alberta prosecutors

WATCH ABOVE: The Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association says more than 200 cases have been stayed in the last two months. ACAA President James Pickard says the justice system needs more resources.

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said more prosecutors and court clerks are being sought but has not indicated what will happen next, saying people will have to wait until the details of the provincial budget are released on Thursday, March 16.

“We certainly are doing our level best to ensure that serious and violent matters are prioritized, that we’re screening out those things that don’t need to find themselves in the justice system to places like alternative measures or mental health diversion,” she said Tuesday.

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“We are working to ensure the system is properly resourced and operates properly going forward.”

The decision to stay the cases is a result of the landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling R. vs Jordan, which set out a new framework for determining whether a criminal trial has been unreasonably delayed.

The ACAA said the Jordan decision 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.”

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