WHEREAS Albertans are concerned with the escalating levels of rural crime as evidenced by many media reports over the past few years; and
WHEREAS the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2016 decision in R v Jordan puts hard timelines in place to resolve cases: eighteen (18) months for provincial court matters and thirty (30) months for Superior Court (in Alberta, the Court of Queen’s Bench) to uphold an accused person’s Charter right to trial without unreasonable delays; and
WHEREAS hundreds of court cases across Alberta have been stayed over the past two years because of a lack of resources in the provincial prosecution service; and
WHEREAS thousands of court cases across Alberta could be at risk of being dismissed for violating new time guidelines set out in the Jordan decision; and
WHEREAS Alberta’s chief justice has ruled police officers do not have the authority to act on behalf of the Crown at bail hearings; and
WHEREAS the current prosecutor staffing levels are not sufficient to manage the demands of the numbers of cases on the current docket; and
WHEREAS Crown prosecutors in rural municipalities are overworked and understaffed and require additional support to effectively carry out their duties;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) encourage the Government of Alberta to increase Crown prosecutor staffing levels as well as relevant administrative staff for rural muncipalities and collaborate with rural municipalities to ensure that court cases are being sufficiently prosecuted in a timely manner.
Alberta Justice lawyers, employed as Crown prosecutors, are responsible for prosecutions under some federal statutes, such as the Criminal Code, and under provincial statutes.
In a typical case, the prosecutor’s responsibilities include determining appropriate charges, discussions with defence counsel, preparing witnesses for court, examination and cross-examination of witnesses and presenting arguments respecting conviction and sentence.
More than 100 cases have been stayed in Alberta since December 2016 because of a lack of resources in the provincial prosecution service, according to the Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association. Moreover, there has been tremendous anecdotal evidence in rural communities that crown prosecutors are unable to carry out their duties due to a dearth of resources.
While the Government of Alberta has announced the hiring of 50 new crown prosecutors and 30 support staff to help mitigate against the current backlogs in the court system, it is imperative that rural communities are endowed with the resources necessary to address rural crime; increased staffing levels in the major cities will not be sufficient to address the challenges presented by rural crime in Alberta.
The RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.