Court Site Study of Adult Unrepresented Accused in the Provincial Criminal Courts (Part 2: Site Reports)

Chapter 2: Regina

2.1 Objectives and methodology

The Department of Justice and the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Permanent Working Group on Legal Aid retained the research team to engage in a national study to measure:

  • The frequency with which accused persons are appearing before the court without representation – at different stages of the court process.
  • The impacts of self-represented accused – on themselves, on other groups involved in the court process, and on the courts in total.

A brief overview of the full national study – covering nine court sites – has been presented in Chapter 1. The methodology for the Regina part of the national study followed a strategy for data collection and site visits similar to that followed in the other sites.

2.1.1 Report format

The findings for Regina are presented in seven sections.

Section 1 outlines the objectives of the study, describes the format of the report, and discusses the methodology used to collect information.
Section 2 provides important contextual information for interpreting the findings of the report. Special attention is give to key characteristics of the community, the court, legal aid, duty counsel and disclosure.
Section 3 describes how frequently self-represented accused appear at different stages of the court process.
Section 4 explores the frequency with which accused persons have other types of representation, and how those frequencies vary at different stages of the court process.
Section 5 focuses on the important impacts of self-representation on the accused. The section discusses both perceptions provided from our interviews and empirical evidence from data especially collected for the project.
Section 6 then describes other significant impacts – due to the presence of unrepresented accused – on the key groups involved in the courts (e.g., legal aid, duty counsel, Crown attorneys, judges and court personnel), and on court operations (including court workloads and time to deal with and dispose of cases).
Section 7 completes the report with key overall findings, and solutions that have been suggested by those interviewed in Regina.

2.1.2 Methodology

The methodology involved data collection and site visits.  Information was available on the question of unrepresented accused from three sources:

  • A Disposed Cases sample.  This special electronic file was created for the project by Saskatchewan Justice from the JAIN court automated information system.  The file consisted of data on all court appearances for all criminal cases disposed in Regina Provincial Court in 2001 (over 45,000 appearances for roughly 10,000 cases).  Data was provided on characteristics of each case (e.g., offence type), on events, and on decisions that were taken at each appearance (e.g., plea, elections, remands, verdicts and sentences).
  • A Direct Court Observation sample.  A local person with extensive experience in the Regina court was hired to sit in court and directly observe and record information on the events and decisions that occurred in 300 case court appearances during five days in Courtroom 1 (docket court) and five days in Courtroom 2 (remand – bail court) during April and May of 2002.[1]
  • Key Person Interviews.  These were conducted with over 20 key informants (judges, Crowns, legal aid staff and management, court administration and court clerks, private bar members, local service agencies, etc.).  Interviews were from 30 minutes to one hour, covered all aspects of the study, and most were conducted by two interviewers.  The anonymity of those interviewed was ensured.

In all parts of the project, we received excellent co-operation and assistance from all those we asked to participate in the study.  We also gratefully acknowledge the very able assistance and expertise of the two Regina-based persons who assisted in observing in court and in preparing the electronic file of data from the JAIN automated information system.

[1] Trial courts were not included in this part of the data collection.

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