Crown attorneys would rather quit than do sub-par job: letter

Barb Sweet
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Newfoundland Supreme Court

Budget cuts will send justice back to pre-Lamer inquiry times, warns a group of Crown attorneys.    

  “The NLCAA (Newfoundland and Labrador Crown Attorneys’ Association) executive has spoken to front-line prosecutors in each of the province’s regions and is seriously concerned that recent reductions in personnel will have significant negative implications in our ability to carry out our responsibilities,” the group of Crown lawyers said in a letter to The Telegram, which can be found on page A6 of today’s paper.

The Crown attorneys are asking the province to reverse the cuts to the Crown attorneys’ office.

“We would have hoped that the expensive lessons of the Lamer Inquiry would not be brushed aside so easily only six years after they were brought to light and addressed,” they said.

The 2006 report by the late former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Antonio Lamer examining the wrongful murder convictions of three Newfoundland men —  Randy Druken, Greg Parsons and Ronald Dalton — blamed a deeply flawed justice system and prompted a review of the Crown office.

“As a result of that review, the Crown Attorneys’ Office was restructured and additional personnel were hired. These changes were a direct response to the findings of the Lamer Inquiry and designed to ensure that the prosecution of offences was conducted properly and in a manner that ensured public safety while bolstering public confidence in criminal prosecutions,” said the group.

The group said prior to the budget being released the end of March, a hiring freeze had already caused staff shortages in St. John’s and Goose Bay, while the Corner Brook office is short one Crown until January.

And the budget resulted in four Crowns being laid off in

St. John’s and one Crown in central.

“This increased workload has resulted in many Crowns working additional hours of uncompensated overtime each week. Many Crowns have considered alternate employment. … At present, one Crown has resigned, a second Crown has given notice of resignation and is scheduled to leave May 1 and a third Crown has been given an outside offer of employment.

“In last weekend’s Telegram, we learned that another very experienced Crown has announced her intention to leave,” the letter said.

In central, the group said five trial Crowns are left to appear before six provincial court judges and four Supreme Court judges.

“With respect to St. John’s, the layoffs combined with the hiring freeze will cause the number of trial Crowns to fall to pre-Lamer staffing levels. The direct result will be a significant increase in workload.

“Even with increased hours of uncompensated overtime, it is unlikely that the Crowns in St. John’s will be able to complete their duties to the self-imposed standard of professionalism that the Crowns, the courts and the public expect,” the group said.

“Once the standard of prosecution starts to drop, individual Crowns are exposed to personal and professional liability. …

“The increased workload will lead to a further reduction in personnel as experienced Crowns opt to leave to avoid doing a sub-par job and exposing themselves and the department to the possibility of another inquiry that cost the government a little over $11 million in costs and payouts.”

Organizations: Supreme Court

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Goose Bay, Corner Brook

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Recent comments

  • Tween Lines
    April 06, 2013 - 09:33

    To put it another way: "Crown attorneys would rather take high paying private firm job than do current sub-par job."

  • james
    April 05, 2013 - 17:54

    if goverment keeps cutting back on the court system and the sheriffs office allowing crimals to walk free,i think as newfoundlanders we should be allowed to arm ourselfs,if goverment wont protect us,we should project ourselfs

  • Jack
    April 05, 2013 - 13:05

    Duffy, this behaviour will continue to happen as long as Kathy Dunderdale continues to plunge Newfoundland and Labrador into a Fascist Dictatorship (sorry if I offend people in advance), oppress basic human rights which are enshrined into the "Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms", and punish female government employees for taking maternity leave and then cut their jobs and left penniless to feed their family. As for Tom Marshall, Kathy Dunderdale is not a compassionate woman, she is comparable to the evil queen in the Snow White stories and "Snow White and the Royal Huntsman" movie.

    • wai
      April 05, 2013 - 14:30

      A fascist dictatorship?? What ignorance. You have no idea of what it is like to live under a dictatorship.

  • david
    April 05, 2013 - 12:50

    I believe these attorneys are miscalculating their negotiating position. First off, Danny and his "brilliant" mind aren't making these decisions any more, and so the potential for a very lucrative, inequitable and poorly-thought-out pay raise like a handful of doctors got is very unlikely. Second, they aren't doctors,,,they're lawyers. Not exactly the same wonderful profession in the eyes of the public, and therefore in the assessment of the politicians looking to purchase.....err, placate...voters. Third, if they DO follow through on their threat and quit, it's not like anyone would notice much of a difference in how effective the justice system is. Heck, just let all defendants go home to "house arrest"... That's what happens most of the time anyway.

  • Duffy
    April 05, 2013 - 11:54

    Careful what you say in our Monarchy. The Queens bunch has already suspended a Legal Aid Lawyer for speaking out against the castle. Hopefully in the future we can live in a democracy where people can speak their mind without flogging.

  • Bravo Crown Attourneys
    April 05, 2013 - 10:51

    I am so proud of the crown for publicly stating the obvious. We need more guts from those who are affected by the ill decisions of this government.

  • Jack
    April 05, 2013 - 09:27

    This morning, I also learned on the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador News Website that a well known Legal Aid Lawyer, Ray Kuszelewski, was suspended for speaking out against the recent cuts, meaning that the Dunderdale Government and its Government Departments don't respect the concept of Human Rights. Ray Kuszelewski is not the only government employee whose human rights are infringed in the hands of the Dunderdale Government. I even learned that some provincial government departments are cutting staff members whom are on maternity leave, which is illegal under Newfoundland and Labrador as well as Canadian laws. In fact, on "The Western Star" news article entitled "Closing the book", Melissa Feaver, Manager of Technical Services with Provincial Information and Library Resources Board, lost her job while on maternity leave. With direct and indirect provincial government employees being punished for speaking out, which is a "Freedom of Speech" violation under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and those losing their jobs while on maternity leave, which violates federal and provincial human and labour rights laws, it seems to me that the Dunderdale Government doesn't respect the basic human and employment rights of their employees. The sooner Kathleen "Kathy" Dunderdale, or should I say, Blunderdale, and her right wing friends are gone, the better Newfoundland and Labrador will be. Michael and Ball all the way.

  • Fed Up As Well
    April 05, 2013 - 08:40

    As time goes on you will see more and more civil servants (who have managed to escape this round of cuts), especially the higher educated ones, seek employment elsewhere, taking with them their knowledge and experience. Everytime there is a budget crunch or mismanagement by the politicians, civil servants are faced with wage freezes, rollbacks, hiring freezes and layoffs. The "We're Hiring" campaign over the last few years was a complete waste of money and showed negligence to the people it lured into the civil service, only to face being layed off now. Government has sent the message that there is no security at all within the civil service - no one is safe unless you have political connections. They have announced they plan on chopping the benefits package as well. They certainly are not an "employer of choice" and will have trouble attracting qualified personnel in the future, which in the long run is not good for the Province.

    • Fed Up Number Two
      April 05, 2013 - 09:10

      Well said, I have been a government employee for 32 1/2 years and I tell you it's been a struggle. Pay increases don't come unless you walk the picket lines for 2 weeks or longer. I'm not making much more now than I did when I started in 1980. The younger ones don't get offered permanent full time jobs anymore, as casual workers, they are expected to get ready every morning and sit by the phone waiting for the call to come to work. They can work like this for years before they launch a permanent full time position. There is definitely no incentive to work for the government anymore.

    • Jack R
      April 05, 2013 - 13:02

      don't understand why people cannot remember anything about policital issues be on a three year period, because in the forth year or there abouts , we have an election and all the problems are solved with money being thrown around everywhere and guest what, the Government will be put back in power. Have anyone wondered why Kathy was made Premier, think about it she was given the Muskrat Falls issue to handle before Danny left, and I would be interested to know who might have or will have investments in the Maskrat Falls deal.

  • darls
    April 05, 2013 - 07:19