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Quebec will grant more powers to justices of the peace

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After the hiring of judges and personnel at the Ministry of Justice, Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette is adopting other measures with the aim of reducing legal delays. (Archive photo)

  • Jérôme Labbé (View profile)Jérôme Labbé

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A bill will be submitted shortly to the National Assembly in order to reduce delays in criminal and penal justice matters and reduce the number of stays of proceedings and “dismissals”.

The legislative document will be inspired by an action plan containing around forty measures and the broad outlines of which were presented Monday morning by the Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette, in Montreal.

The document in question comes from the Table Justice-Québec, a consultation body resurrected last fall in the wake of the agreement concluded in April 2023 at the end of a standoff between the minister and the former chief judge of the Court of Quebec, Lucie Rondeau.

The Minister Jolin-Barrette's action plan provides in particular for the addition of powers to presiding justices of the peace. They will now be able to handle appearances and bail inquiries, for example.

Such a measure should allow a cascading effect and free up the full-time equivalent of 15 to 20 judges of the Court of Quebec, who will in turn be able to hear more criminal trials, explained the minister.

The action plan of the Table Justice-Québec also plans to lighten the evidence regime and modernize procedures – by making greater use of videoconferencing, for example – in order to save court time and prevent witnesses from having to come to court.

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Asked about when the legislative document will be tabled, Minister Jolin-Barrette, who is also the parliamentary leader of the Legault government, responded that he wanted to proceed fairly quickly.

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There are 115,000 criminal cases currently in the justice system.

Judicial delays are a major problem in the country , particularly since the Supreme Court's Jordan decision set a time limit on all criminal and penal cases in order to respect the right of defendants to be tried within a reasonable time, in 2016.

This limit is 18 months for cases heard in a provincial court and 30 months for cases processed by a superior court.

Quebec, of course, is not immune to this phenomenon. Last year, 83 criminal cases ended in a stay of proceedings, and 274 others were abandoned due to dismissal of charges, Simon Jolin-Barrette said on Monday.

In an interview on the show Midi info on ICI Premiere, the minister spoke of a failure of the justice system.

For us, what is important is that the cases are heard within 18-30 months, so that there are no victims filing a complaint and who go through the legal process only to be told: "Eventually there will be no trial due to the passage of time". This is not acceptable. And if we want to ensure that justice is done, deadlines must be kept very tight.

A quote from Simon Jolin-Barrette, Minister of Justice of Quebec, in interview at Midi info

Québec has taken a series of actions in recent months to reduce legal delays in criminal and penal matters.

The Legault government notably created 14 new judge positions; increased to 121 the number of hearing days per judge in the criminal and penal chamber; and announced plans to train more special constables. It also set a goal of reducing the median time to close a case from 301 to 212 days.

It's not perfect, there will still be stays in proceedings or [non-places], but I want as little of that as possible, summarized Minister Jolin- Bar at Midi info.

  • Jérôme Labbé (View profile)Jérôme LabbéFollow
Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116