The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

CBA/ABC National

Charter rights are not a technicality

January 17 2017 17 January 2017

 

Anne-Marie McElroy addresses concerns voiced in the public that the Supreme Court’s Jordan ruling, which imposed ceilings on getting criminal cases to trial, is contributing to more offenders being let go “on a technicality”:

On the face of it, it’s easier to assume that someone is factually guilty and then to move to the idea that a conviction should automatically follow. But Charter rights aren’t just technical or trivial. They form the basis of our justice system, setting out guidelines of appropriate behaviour of all of the players within it. The Charter is often the only tool that a judge has to send a message to police that the community standards do not permit the behaviour seen in a case, and the same goes for the institutional problems that have become pervasive with delays in having matters get to trial.

LĂ©onid Sirota also tackled this question in a post following the release of the decision last year:

The Charter does not speak of “a right to be tried within a reasonable time, except for those accused of depraved offences.” The Jordan majority is quite right to say that only the complexity of the legal or factual issues, rather than the gravity of the charge, can justify a prosecution taking longer to conclude. Those who think otherwise need to amend the constitution.

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