Handling of Brampton courtroom shortage causes a stir

The province’s latest plan to deal with the ongoing shortage of courtrooms in Brampton – moving trials to other areas as far away as Kitchener – is prejudicial to accused persons, says Toronto criminal lawyer Roots Gadhia.

“It’s wrong to expect any client who is already facing unsurmountable odds fighting the state with all of its resources to make accommodations to move to an outside jurisdiction,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Gadhia says the logistics of moving matters outside the jurisdiction are significant and will come at a price.

“From the most minor of issues such as transportation and cost to unnecessary delays for all the players – counsel, clients, Crown, police, witnesses and jurors – the effects will likely lead to institutional delay applications.

“And those delay applications could lead to stays on potentially serious offences,” she says.

Gadhia wades into the issue as an Ontario Superior Court judge blasts the provincial government for its handling of the Brampton courtroom shortage, reports the Toronto Star.

In a letter distributed to the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, Justice Francine Van Melle accuses the Ministry of the Attorney General of failing to provide sufficient criminal jury courtrooms “on time, as promised.”

The letter, sent earlier this year to the CLA president and obtained by the newspaper, was sent shortly after the province announced a new six-floor addition the Brampton’s A. Grenville and William Davis courthouse, one of Ontario’s busiest because of a massive annual increase of 40,000 cases, says the newspaper.

The judge said the problem is that the addition, which isn’t expected to be complete until December 2017, doesn’t address the current shortage, which she and other judges have been calling on the province to “immediately address” for more than three years, says The Star.

The judges had “urged” the ministry to move forward with a 2012 plan that saw the addition of three modular courtrooms to bring relief in a more timely fashion, the newspaper reports. But the ministry went ahead with the six-storey addition “despite our pleas,” Van Melle wrote.

“You can imagine our frustration when we learned … that it will take another three years before there is any real relief in Brampton,” wrote Van Melle, who was then Regional Senior Justice for Ontario’s Central West court region.

“The ministry’s decision inconveniences counsel, the accused, witnesses, the police, court staff, judges and members of the public.”

Gadhia says the inadequate allocation of resources to the courts has been an ongoing problem that needs to be more adequately addressed.

“The government has no problem spending millions on building super jails and paying the cost of housing inmates, but it keeps the justice system relegated to strip malls and insufficient resources – the optics on this are bad,” she says.

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