Overcrowded courts a problem here to stay: Gadhia

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

Despite the construction of a new courthouse in the downtown core of Canada’s largest city, the challenges associated with the lack of available space for proceedings will only get worse over time in areas around the municipality, Toronto criminal lawyer Roots Gadhia tells The Lawyer’s Daily.

Gadhia, principal of R. Roots Gadhia Criminal Defence Law, is one of a number of lawyers and organizations, including the Toronto Lawyers Association, to speak out about concerns related to the amalgamated courthouse. She says the mega-courthouse won’t ease all overcrowding problems in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Gadhia is based in the Etobicoke area of Toronto, but she often represents accused persons who appear in court in Brampton, a city of about 590,000 people and located roughly 45 km northwest of the new courthouse site.

While the courthouse in Brampton is undergoing a renovation to add additional courtrooms, Gadhia says she doesn’t expect the extra room will be enough.

“In four or five years, we’ll be having this exact same conversation [about overcrowding],” she says.

Because there is a large immigrant population in the area, you have the standard associated problem of police targeting and a high number of arrests, says Gadhia.

So if you speak to any criminal lawyer in the GTA or southern Ontario, she adds, many will say the halls of the Brampton courthouse “are full of clients, there is always work.”

Because of the space problem in Brampton, Gadhia says trials are moved to Kitchener, Guelph, Orangeville or Owen Sound in order to ensure they are held in a timely manner under Jordan rules.

As a result, juries are bused to different cities, she says.

For example, Gadhia recently had a manslaughter case where moving the trial to a different city became a major issue and resulted in an application to the court specifically addressing the potential move.

In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, Gadhia says one of the problems was that counsel involved in the matter was unable to travel every day to Kitchener — where the trial was planned to be moved — because of health issues. In the end, a local courtroom became available and the trial wasn’t relocated.

With the lack of space being such a pervasive problem, Gadhia says she wonders how the new courthouse in Toronto will be able to handle all of the demands placed on it.

“There are a lot of problems associated with the whole amalgamated courthouse. It’s going to create havoc in the system,” she tells The Lawyer’s Daily.

Many families will have to travel longer distances for court, Gadhia tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“Some will have to make it from the east end of Scarborough or the north end of Toronto to get to court for their families,” she says. “

Attending bail hearings and trying to commute on the transit system from outlying areas will also be an issue for many, which does not make justice accessible. It’s already hard enough to get clients to arrive on time at local courthouses. It will be more difficult for them to travel downtown.”

Gadhia says the sheer volume of people having to go to the same building downtown will also cause issues.

“Several hundred people all coming to court on the subway or traveling by car to the same location will result in parking issues and other congestion on public transit,” she adds.

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