Our court systems have, in recent years, been said to beinefficient, sometimes ineffective, and even backlogged to thepoint where cases have to be dismissed because of how long ittakes for them to get to court. After my trip to court, theseare my opinions and observations on the “Efficiency andEffectiveness of our Criminal Court System”. The court procedures of provincial court are very systematicand are carried out very swiftly. It is much like a tennismatch, the ball, or control in the court, is volleyed back andforth between the judge (and court clerk) and the lawyers.
Thecourt clerk arraigns the accused, the defence lawyer responseswith how the accused pleas, if it is “not guilty”, the courtclerk asks how the Crown lawyer wishes to proceed and so forth. However, this is not so in the Ontario Supreme Court (TrialDivision), though similar in methodical procedures, the courtcases are longer and much more time is spent on each individualpart of the case, from presenting the evidence to cross-examination of the witness, this is because of the amount ofinformation involved.
The general atmosphere and behaviour in the ProvincialCourtrooms were general loose and calm. The people, lawyers,judge, clerk and recorder seem to know each other very well. They joked openly, even while the court was in session, thedefence lawyer asked if he could persuade the judge into alighter sentence after the judge had already made a decision in avery easy and friendly tone of voice, something seemlyunprofessional that caused chuckles throughout the courtroom.
Where in the Ontario Supreme Court the atmosphere was much moreserious, professional, strict and at times high in tension. Our current bail system, in either monetary terms orpersonal recognizance, seemed pretty successful in ProvincialCourt, though not observed in the Ontario Supreme Court, all thepeople did show up for their trial, which included two people onbail for possession of marijuana cigarettes. As a final note, nobench warrant was every called for by the judge for people whomfailed to attend their trial.
The necessity of the duty council is for those who don’thave a lawyer and is for their benefit that they discuss legaloptions that the accused might have before proceeding, howeverthis part of the system is not very efficient as the court mustadjourn for this and thus waste valuable time that could be otherwise used for processing other court cases. The Crown Attorney in provincial court was, on the whole,fairly well prepared, efficiently bring relevant facts toattention, friendly and well acquainted to the defence lawyers aswell as the judge, and quick to get to the point that he wastrying to prove.
There was little time wasted, between thearraignment and the sentencing, on the part of the CrownAttorney. In Ontario Supreme Court, the Crown Attorney thereseemed well prepared, efficient, and quick, however there seemedto be a lack of personal evolvement in the case, rather he seemedemotionless, just doing his job, not being familiar with thejudge or other people in the court room. By the way he presentedand dressed, he appeared far more strict and serious in conductand appearance than his Provincial Court counterpart.
Calling a remand can be helpful in that it allows witnesses,especially key witnesses, to be present at a later date when itis possible for them to attend the trial, as duty may call themto do otherwise. The disadvantages, however, are mostly on theaccused’s part, as s/he must remain in custody longer in order tobe brought back to trial. The necessity for a lawyer for minor offences can sometimesoutweigh the cost the accused must pay for them because thelawyer understands the law and how the system works, he might beable to point out some small discrepancies or may suggest whattype and how much punishment is suitable for the accused’s crime.
The lawyer may also point out that if the person has a record,how old it really is, as records older than 5 years old that arenot cleared are disregarded by the judge. They also help thecases progress faster as an accused legal options will be alreadymade clear to him by his/her lawyer. Lawyers are absolutely necessary for major cases, as theaccused may not understand his legal rights clearly or may notknow how to defend himself correctly in the correct the mannerduring trial in court.
Court judges in Provincial Court were generally looser thanthose in Ontario Supreme Court as that the one we saw in SupremeCourt seemed more serious, lacked in emotional expressions, butalso easily bored. However in Provincial Court, they wereserious but there was room for humour and understanding of theaccused’s situation. Over all they looked like they enjoyedtheir jobs. All in all, the system we currently have cannot be anybetter as it is efficient as humanly possible without violatingany individuals rights as in the Charter.