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Doug Downey, Attorney General

Ontario invests over $72 million to address ‘unprecedented backlog of criminal cases’

Friday, October 29, 2021 @ 12:43 PM | By Amanda Jerome

On Oct. 29, the Ontario government announced an investment of “over $72 million over two years” to address the “unprecedented backlog of criminal cases that have accumulated in the justice system as a result of the pandemic.”

Attorney General Doug Downey said in a statement that the government is “taking extraordinary measures to prevent people accused of murder, sexual assault and other serious crimes from going free without a trial due to the exceptional pressure on the justice system caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Attorney General Doug Downey

“This new investment will support the work of prosecutors and police to hold offenders accountable and stand up for victims of crime as they seek justice,” he added.

According to a government release, the extra funding will, in part, go to hiring “additional Crown prosecutors to ensure serious cases aren’t being stayed for delay and recruiting new staff to strengthen court services and victim/witness services.”

The province will also increase “trial capacity in the justice system until the number of outstanding cases returns to pre-pandemic levels by reducing the number of cases entering the criminal justice system, seeking faster resolutions for cases already in the system and updating processes to shorten the time it takes to move a case to trial,” the release explained.

This work will include:

  • “an updated COVID-19 Recovery Directive for prosecutors to help address the growing backlog of criminal cases and focus resources where they are needed most — the prosecution of serious cases such as murder, sexual assault & gun-related offences;
  • expanding the ability of Crowns to assess bail positions quicker across Ontario;
  • ensuring victims and vulnerable individuals and communities have access to support and services by increasing capacity in Ontario’s Victim/Witness Assistance Program.”

The province is also “establishing an experienced team of prosecutors to conduct an intensive case review and resolution blitz of targeted offences from region to region.”

“These significant new measures build on actions we have taken throughout the pandemic to keep Ontarians safe and build a more connected and resilient criminal justice system, including a recently updated COVID-19 Recovery Directive for prosecutors,” said Downey in a statement.

“We have listened to prosecutors and partners throughout the justice system to help establish a strategy that will attack the criminal case backlog from every angle to get results,” he added.

The government’s announcement noted that the “criminal case backlog reduction strategy will build on recent provincial investments in a Digital Evidence Management program to support criminal investigations and prosecutions that must evolve to respond to increasingly advanced criminal activities.”

“The strategy’s comprehensive measures will also build on the expansion of the eIntake digital platform that has helped to speed up the process to file criminal charges,” the release added.

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