NEWS
03/27/2017 17:08 EDT | Updated 03/28/2018 01:12 EDT

More judges, prosecutors hired to reduce delays in Quebec's justice system

The Quebec government says it's making progress in reducing court delays, as the ministers of Justice and Public Security announced they've been hiring judges, prosecutors and support staff.

The Court of Quebec appointed 16 new judges. The province also recently hired 52 new prosecutors and hundreds of support staff were hired to help unclog the province's court system.

"We did everything we could to make it possible," said Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée.

But there are still several problems, such as waiting for Ottawa to appoint judges to fill the vacancies at Quebec Superior Court.

Vallée said she's encouraged by the federal government's announcement last week to appoint 28 new judges.

"We expect that eight...out of these 28 resources will be appointed in Quebec."

'Delays became completely unreasonable,' criminal lawyer says

Another issue plaguing the system are the 684 requests for a stay of proceedings.

In July 2016, the Supreme court issued the "Jordan decision", which set strict new deadlines on the justice system. Less serious offences must now be wrapped up within 18 months and more serious charges, including murder, have a 30 month deadline.

It's resulted in charges being stayed and cases thrown out — from impaired driving and drug trafficking, to aggravated sexual assault, and even murder.

​"The Supreme Court of Canada set out a guideline. That guideline is one that says, 'Listen, a person that is presumed innocent is entitled to a trial within a reasonable delay.' What happened over the past few years... is that those delays became completely unreasonable. Sometimes one person would come into our office and say, 'When will I have my trial? When am I going to have my chance to explain to the courts that I did not commit this offence,' for instance. And then your answer would be, 'Well your trial is probably going to be within two years, two-and-a-half years, three years from now," said Philipe Knerr, a criminal lawyer at Schurman, Longo and Grenier.

Kneer said the new appointments and hires are a step in the right direction.

"The appointment of judges has had a profoundly positive impact on the system. Now we just have to see if we have enough courtrooms for all these judges."

Most trial dates for this year are taken, 2018 is filling up quickly, and dates are already being booked for 2019.