JustFacts

Jordan: Statistics Related to Delay in the Criminal Justice System

April 2017

Research and Statistics Division

This fact sheet is based on publicly available data from Statistics CanadaFootnote 1 and provincial databases, a number of Justice Canada, Canadian government (federal and provincial/territorial) and academic studies and publications released from 2009 to 2017, as well as data from an internal research report prepared by Justice Canada in 2013.

Median length of cases completed in adult criminal court by province and territory, 2005/2006 vs. 2014/2015 described below

Text version: Median length of cases completed in adult criminal court by province and territory, 2005/2006 vs. 2014/2015

A horizontal bar chart illustrates the number of cases completed in adult criminal court. The Y axis lists the provinces and territories as follows from top to bottom: Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut. The Y axis provides two measures for each province and territory: one for 2005/2006 and one for 2014/2015. The X axis presents the median length of cases. This axis is measured in number of days and increases in increments of 50 from 0 to 250. The median length of cases for Newfoundland and Labrador was 113 in 2005/2006 and 143 in 2014/2015; for Prince Edward Island – 33 in 2005/2006 and 47 in 2014/2015; for Nova Scotia – 125 in 2005/2006 and 163 in 2014/2015; for New Brunswick – 74 in 2005/2006 and 106 in 2014/2015; for Quebec – 182 in 2005/2006 and 239 in 2014/2015; for Ontario – 120 in 2005/2006 and 104 in 2014/2015; for Manitoba – 121 in 2005/2006 and 151 in 2014/2015; for Saskatchewan – 91 in 2005/2006 and 77 in 2014/2015; for Alberta – 120 in 2005/2006 and 107 in 2014/2015; for British Columbia – 111 in 2005/2006 and 105 in 2014/2015; for Yukon – 85 in 2005/2006 and 103 in 2014/2015; for Northwest Territories – 23 in 2005/2006 and 61 in 2014/2015; and for Nunavut – 102 in 2005/2006 and 71 in 2014/2015. The chart also presents three vertical lines across the bar chart that represent the median length of cases for Canada, in 2005/2006 (124 days) and 2014/2015 (121 days), as well as in 2013/2014 (127 days) were there was a peak.

The overall length of time to complete adult criminal cases in Canada has been relatively steady for the past five years with the exception of 2013/2014 where this timeframe peaked

In 2014/2015, the median length of time from an individual’s first court appearance to the completion of their case was 121 days (around 4 months), which was six days shorter than the previous year (i.e., peak in 2013/2014), and three days shorter than a decade ago (2005/2006).

The length of time to complete adult criminal court cases varies significantly across jurisdictionsFootnote 2

In 2014/2015, the median number of days to complete adult criminal cases was highest in QuebecFootnote 3, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Newfoundland/Labrador (see chart). Compared to a decade ago (2005/2006), all jurisdictions have seen increases in this timeframe, except for Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and Nunavut where decreases were observed.

The median number of appearances to complete an adult criminal case remained unchanged over the past decadeFootnote 4

In 2014/2015, the median number of appearances it took to complete a case was 5, a number which has been consistent over the last 10 years.

Cases involving more serious offences or cases involving multiple charges take longer to completeFootnote 5

In 2014/2015, homicide cases took a median number of 493 days and required a median of 19 appearances to complete, while cases involving administration of justice offences were completed in just over two months (73 days) and required a median of 4 appearances. Similarly, in 2014/2015, cases involving multiple charges (i.e., 60% of all cases) took 5 months to complete (150 days) while cases with a single charge (i.e., 40%) took about 3 months to complete (87 days).

Superior court cases required more days and appearances to complete than provincial court casesFootnote 6

In 2014/2015, provincial court cases (i.e., 99% of the completed case load during that year) had a median case length of 120 days, and a median of 5 appearances while superior court cases (i.e., which include some of the most serious offences) had a median case length of 565 days, and a median of 15 appearances.

Percentage of charges completed above presumptive ceiling, by province and territory, 2014/2015 described below
Text version: Percentage of charges completed above presumptive ceiling, by province and territory, 2014/2015

A vertical bar chart illustrates the percentage of charges completed above presumptive ceiling. The Y axis is measured in percentages and increases in increments of five percent from 0 to 25. The X axis lists the provinces and territories as follows from left to right: Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut. The X axis provides two measures for each province and territory: one for Provincial Court cases and one for Superior Court cases. The percentage of charges completed above the presumptive ceiling for Newfoundland and Labrador was 8 in Provincial Court and 6 in Superior Court; for Prince Edward Island – 0 in Provincial Court and N/A in Superior Court; for Nova Scotia – 8 in Provincial Court and 17 in Superior Court; for New Brunswick – 4 in Provincial Court and 1 in Superior Court; for Quebec – 22 in Provincial Court and N/A in Superior Court; for Ontario – 5 in Provincial Court and N/A in Superior Court; for Manitoba – 8 in Provincial Court and N/A in Superior Court; for Saskatchewan – 4 in Provincial Court and N/A in Superior Court; for Alberta – 4 in Provincial Court and 4 in Superior Court; for British Columbia – 3 in Provincial Court and 3 in Superior Court; for Yukon – 3 in Provincial Court and 0 in Superior Court; for Northwest Territories – 4 in Provincial Court and 0 in Superior Court; and for Nunavut – 1 in Provincial Court and N/A in Superior Court.

The majority of provincial and superior court charges are completed within the presumptive ceilings; this proportion varies across jurisdictionsFootnote 7

Across Canada, 93% of provincial court charges were completed within 18 months (or 30 months with a preliminary inquiry), a trend that has remained steady for the past decade.  In superior court, 95% of court charges were completed within the 30 month ceiling. Jurisdictions with the highest proportion of charges completed above the presumptive ceiling include Quebec (22%), Manitoba (8%), Newfoundland/Labrador (8% and 6%) and Nova Scotia (8% and 17%) [see chart].

Legal representation shown to impact case processing timeFootnote 8

Data from Justice Canada’s Justice Effectiveness study indicate that legal representation was shown to be a factor associated with case processing time. Cases with intermittent legal representation required, on average, 298 days to reach conclusion. In comparison, cases with total representation took an average of 160 days and those with no representation took an average of 189 days to reach completion.Footnote 9

Preliminary inquiries may impact the amount of time required for case completion

In 2014/2015, the majority (81%) of adult criminal court cases (completed in provincial and superior court) that had at least one charge with a preliminary inquiry that was requested and/or held were completed in less than 30 months. The remaining cases (19%) took 30 months or longer to complete. Footnote 10

Number of preliminary inquiries for the most serious offence in the case, Canada, 2005/2006 to 2014/2015 described below

Text version: Number of preliminary inquiries for the most serious offence in the case, Canada, 2005/2006 to 2014/2015

A vertical bar chart illustrates the distribution of the number of preliminary inquiries scheduled and/or held for the most serious offence in the case. The Y axis is measured in numbers inscribed at the top of each bar. The X axis is divided into 10 increments for each year from 2005/2006 to 2014/2015 (i.e., from left to right: 2005/2006, 2006/2007, 2007/2008, 2008/2009, 2009/2010, 2010/2011, 2011/2012, 2012/2013, 2013/2014, 2014/2015). In 2005/2006, the were 12,471 preliminary inquiries scheduled and/or held for the most serious offence in the case; 11,218 in 2006/2007; 11,192 in 2007/2008; 11,787 in 2008/2009; 11,218 in 2009/2010; 10,094 in 2010/2011; 10,017 in 2011/2012; 10,130 in 2012/2013; 9,677 in 2013/2014; and 7,917 in 2014/2015.

Preliminary Inquiries have decreased over the last 10 yearsFootnote 11

The number of preliminary inquiries, that were scheduled and/or held, for the most serious offence in the case, has decreased by 37% over the last ten years (including adults and youth - see chart).

Research has suggested that in recent years criminal court cases in certain jurisdictions are more likely to start with a bail hearing

A study reported that the rate of criminal cases that began in bail court in Ontario increased by 38% from 2001 to 2007 (from about 6 per 1,000 residents in 2001 to 8.3 per 1,000 residents in 2007). The proportion of criminal cases beginning in bail court also rose from 39% in 2001 to 50% in 2007.Footnote 12 Although the most recent data from the Ontario Court of Justice indicates that the proportion of cases starting in bail court has declined since 2007 (i.e., 45% [n=93,802] in 2016), the proportion reported in 2016 remains higher than in 2001.Footnote 13

The time adult accused spend on remand has increased for most jurisdictionsFootnote 14

When compared to 1999/2000, figures from 2014/15 indicate that the median number of days adults spent in remand has increased for all jurisdictions except for Ontario and Manitoba (remained unchanged) and Newfoundland and Labrador (decreased by 6%).

Research has indicated that a “culture of adjournment” has resulted in delays in court

A study conducted in eight courts across Ontario, from 2006 to 2008, indicated that a significant number of bail hearings were routinely adjourned; on an average day, bail decisions were delayed for between 57% and 81% of cases.Footnote 15Similar results were found by another study conducted in five jurisdictions in 2013, where on average each day, about 54% of all cases observed were adjourned. This proportion varied by jurisdiction.Footnote 16

Median case processing time for charges with a mandatory minimum penalty (MMP) increasedFootnote 17

The median case processing time for MMP charges shows a general increasing trend over time.  Between 2000/2001 and 2013/2014, the number of days from first appearance to decision increased 54%, from 208 days to 321 days. 

AOJOFootnote 18 charges have increased over time and represent one quarter of all cases in adult criminal court

While the overall rate of charging has declined over the years, the rate of charges for administration of justice offences (AOJO) has increased by 8% over the last ten years (respectively from 412 incidents per 100,000 population in 2006 to 443 incidents per 100,000 in 2015).Footnote 19 In 2014/2015, there were 74,811 AOJO casesFootnote 20 in adult criminal court, representing 23% of all criminal court cases. In 2014/2015, 42% of AOJOs in adult criminal court were for failure to comply with an order and 40% were for breach of probation. Footnote 21

Impaired driving court cases represent over one in ten criminal court cases and have seen a significant decrease in their case processing timeFootnote 22

There were 33,121 impaired driving cases in adult criminal court in 2014/2015, down from 33% since 2010/2011. Footnote 23  These cases represent 10% of all criminal courtcases heard in adult court in 2014/2015.

In 2005/2006 the median case processing time for impaired driving offences was 158 days. The most recent data for 2014/2015 shows the median case processing time for impaired driving cases has dropped to 105 days, which brings the offence type in line with some of the shortest case processing times, such as offences against property which has a median case processing time of 104 days.

Police-reported impaired driving incidents, British Columbia, 2009-2015 described below

Text version: Police-reported impaired driving incidents, British Columbia, 2009-2015

A line graph illustrates the distribution of the number of police-reported impaired driving incidents in British Columbia. The Y axis is measured in number of incidents and increases in increments of 5,000 from 0 to 20,000. The X axis is divided into seven increments for each year from 2009 to 2015 (i.e., from left to right: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). The number of police-reported impaired driving incidents in British Columbia were: 17,248 in 2009, 16,186 in 2010, 18,687 in 2011, 14,364 in 2012, 13,601 in 2013, 12,657 in 2014, and 11,652 in 2015.

Alternative means of dealing with certain types of offences have resulted in a reduced clearance rate by charge under the Criminal CodeFootnote 24

In British Columbia, since 2011, impaired driving cases have been dealt with under the Motor Vehicle Act. Police-reported data from BC show a gradual decline in the number of police-reported Criminal Code impaired driving incidents in the province since the implementation of the Immediate Roadside Prohibition in 2011 (see chart). The clearance rate by charge under the Criminal Code fell from 69% in 2009 to 27% in 2011.

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