Transparent Reporting on Government's Progress
Target: To maintain time to disposition at current levels while Bill C-75 is implemented
One of the primary objectives in the department’s Criminal Justice System Modernization Strategy (2018) is to improve timely access to justice in the provincial justice system. Measuring time to disposition (TTD) allows us to understand how expediently cases are moving through the provincial justice system.
For the 99 per cent of criminal matters that proceed in Provincial Court, TTD reached a record low of 156 days in Q2 of 18/19. During 2020, we have seen an increase in TTD due to pandemic-related closures and delays.
In March 2020, Manitoba recorded its first confirmed case of the COVID-19 virus. The ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic has required all divisions of Manitoba Justice to undertake major adaptations and minor adjustments to support the safe continuation of Justice Business. Periods of temporary closures for Manitoba Courts, suspension of circuit court hearings, community closures, and other pandemic-related delays have resulted in an increase in time to disposition in the Provincial Court. However, the department continues to make improvements to infrastructure to allow courts business to be conducted remotely. Presently, a variety of technological enhancements are underway to improve video conferencing capacity in court centres and correctional centres to allow for court operations to be conducted virtually.
Like other jurisdictions, Manitoba is currently combatting the second wave of the pandemic. Changes remain ongoing as government responds to challenges presented by the pandemic.
Time to disposition (TTD) in Provincial Court is calculated by counting the number of days between the offender’s first appearance date for a given charge, and the date it is disposed of. The most common reasons for disposition are when an accused pleads guilty, when the Crown stays the charge, or when a verdict is reached in a trial. In some cases, accused individuals fail to attend court as required and a warrant is issued for their arrest. The time that charges are in warrant status (until the accused is arrested and brought back to court) is excluded from the calculation.
Timely access to justice is extremely important for all parties involved in a given matter, including the judiciary, counsel, and courts administration. The Supreme Court’s decision in R v. Jordan, which imposed timelines for the completion of all criminal matters of 18 months in provincial court and 30 months in superior court, absent exceptional circumstances, has heightened the department’s focus on improving our TTD in Provincial Court.
Timely justice is important for victims to have resolution of their matter, and for an accused to receive the appropriate sentence and begin receiving rehabilitative programming. Excessive delays can result in an inefficient use of court resources, reduced witness involvement, and/or a stay of charges based on the timelines set out in R v. Jordan. It can also result in serious offenders awaiting federal sentencing to be held in provincial custody for a prolonged period, which can be both a risk to safety and an inefficient use of provincial corrections resources
The Criminal Justice System Modernization Strategy aims to improve and maintain time to disposition in a number of ways.
The department has allocated resources for a number of crime prevention initiatives that will deter criminal activity, and has set a goal to divert 5,000 matters to alternative justice resources, such as restorative justice programming (where possible and appropriate), each year. Changes to Crown policies and procedures have been introduced and continue to be refined. These changes will:
The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has required the department, and the whole of government, to shift their priorities to support Manitobans during the pandemic and preserve the health and wellbeing of the provincial population. As of November 12, 2020, all circuit court and out of custody hearings have been cancelled, with the intention to resume on December 11, 2020, pending pandemic developments. This development will likely impact Q2 Provincial Court TTD figures, and the impact may become more significant if circuit court and out-of-custody matters are suspended beyond December 11, 2020.
Learn more about how your government is tracking against its priorities.