Steering Committee on Justice Efficiencies and Access to the Justice System – Report on Disclosure in Criminal Cases
At its meeting on January 30, 2009, the Justice Efficiencies and Access to Justice Steering Committee noted that disclosure problems in criminal cases have led to miscarriages of justice and contribute to cases collapsing, a major cause of delay in the justice system. The Steering Committee decided to strike a subcommittee to review the caselaw, academic literature and commission and inquiry reports to determine what is being done to address the problems posed by disclosure. The current members of the subcommittee are: John Pearson (Chair, Ministry of the Attorney General for Ontario), Francis Brabant (Sûreté du Québec), James Deitch (Criminal Justice Transformation Project, British Columbia Attorney General’s Department), Eric Gottardi (Canadian Bar Association), Justice Patrick Healy (Court of Quebec), Karen Markham (Justice Canada), Ronald MacDonald (Nova Scotia Attorney General), and William Trudell (Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers).
The Subcommittee prepared a discussion paper and presented it at the September 30, 2009, meeting of the Steering Committee. The discussion paper canvassed recent or ongoing work in the area of disclosure reform. It also reviewed reports, initiatives, legislation and rules relating to disclosure in Canada and other Commonwealth. It concluded with eight lessons learned and eight outstanding issues. The Subcommittee also submitted terms of reference that were endorsed by the Steering Committee. It was agreed that police input will be important in developing a practical report. Finally, the Steering Committee suggested the Subcommittee use the January 2010 meeting of the National Symposium on Criminal Justice as a sounding board for some of the Subcommittee’s reform proposals.
The Subcommittee prepared and presented a status report at the February 2, 2010, meeting of the Steering Committee. The literature review and consultation with a wide variety of stakeholders suggested an emphasis on the following themes: closer police/prosecution collaboration, greater standardization of content and deadlines for prosecution and disclosure briefs, waiver of full disclosure by accused wishing to plead guilty, cost responsibility, technology leverage and challenges, initial disclosure, and judicial dispute resolution earlier in the process.
Prior to the June 8, 2010 meeting of the Steering Committee, the Subcommittee circulated a draft report and list of recommendations. The Steering Committee was asked to provide input at or after the June 8 meeting. The Steering Committee devoted a substantial portion of its meeting to discussing the draft report. The input received at the meeting was subsequently incorporated into the draft report. Prior to the November 16, 2010 meeting of the Steering Committee, the Subcommittee submitted a revised draft report for discussion at the meeting.
A discussion paper outlining the most controversial issues during the consultation process was circulated prior to the January 2011 National Criminal Justice Symposium in Toronto. A wide ranging discussion took place at the Symposium. Attendees were asked to provide written comments.
The Report was further discussed at the March 16, 2011 meeting of the Steering Committee and was approved by the Steering Committee at its June 7, 2011 meeting.
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