Committee struck to determine if Justice cuts were too deep

Rosie Mullaley
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Justice Minister Darin King

The government may be prepared to soften the blow to a department left reeling by provincial budget cuts.

On Monday, a newly struck committee will meet to review whether or not the cuts to The Department of Justice were too deep.

And while Justice Minister Darin King wouldn’t make any promises about reinstating positions, he said there could be a reduction in the number of job losses.

“The committee is not intended to revert everything back to where we were before the budget. Nor is it window dressing,” King said Friday.

“We’re going to take a good, long look at it and make adjustments where needed.”

The committee will be made up of King; Attorney General Tom

Marshall; Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy; Nick Avis, chairman of the Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission; Donovan Molloy, director of public prosecutions; Ernie Boone, the province’s high sheriff; and St. John’s lawyer Bob Simmonds, representing the legal profession.



King said the decision to form the committee was in response to the immense outcry from the public and those within the justice system to cuts in the department.

“I recognize the feedback we’ve been getting and the concerns expressed to us,” King said.

“When we made the decision (to make cuts), we didn’t take it lightly. But it’s clear there are concerns from public and from professionals.”

He said that has concerned him, Marshall and Premier Kathy Dunderdale.

“She’s given me direction to put together this committee to see what we need to do,” he said.

“We want to make sure we don’t compromise public confidence.”

He said the biggest concerns expressed to him have focused around public safety and justice — more specifically, the loss of Crown prosecutors, sheriff’s officers and legal aid lawyers.

When the budget was first announced last week, it was announced that four Crown prosecutors would lose their jobs, while the sheriff’s office in St. John’s would be slashed in half — from 40 sheriff’s officers to 20.

Legal aid may lose up to eight lawyers.

“We are absolutely prepared to make changes if necessary,” he said. “We’re prepared to listen to what this committee has to say.”

King said he will take the committee’s recommendations to the premier, who will make the final determination on what changes, if any, need to be made.

He said the meeting will likely get underway mid-Monday and may be extended into Tuesday, but he expects to have a plan for justice in place by the end of next week.

King said if government decides to reverse some of the cuts, the money doesn’t necessarily have to come from other departments.

“The budget is spread across all government,” he said.

“If we reinvest and it’s determined we cut too much in some areas … we will simply try to come up with the money.”

In a news release Friday, Liberal leader Dwight Ball and opposition justice critic Andrew Parsons said they are encouraged by government’s decision to form a committee to evaluate the impacts of the cuts, but added it should’ve been formed long before the budget was announced.

“This is a step in the right direction towards ensuring that justice is delivered in a fair and effective manner,” Ball said.

“However, this in-depth consultation method should have occurred initially when cuts to the department were being determined.”

Parsons said this wasn’t government’s first time cutting before consulting.

“We’ve seen it countless times in this budget,” he said, “and this kind of approach has drastic effects on the way justice is served in this province.”

Twitter: @TelyCourt

Organizations: Department of Justice, Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission

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Recent comments

  • P-nut gallery
    April 07, 2013 - 20:49

    The committee is made up of the same people that created this situation. If Molloy or Avis were going to say anything, wouldn't we have heard from them before now? Ernie Boone stood by SILENTLY while a large portion of his deputy sheriffs were handed pink slips. He is not going to say anythingm and even if he did, he does know anymore about the role of the sheriffs in court than Minister King knows about justice in general. Where are the lawyers? the sheriffs? Let's get Ray Kuszelewski in there and a couple of actual crown attorneys, maybe a sheriff or two. You know, let's hear from people that know what they are talking about.

  • towniefifty
    April 07, 2013 - 20:24

    the government has made a serious mistake with the cuts made to the justice department, their misjudgement has put the public's security while attending courts, and their right to a fair trial at severe risk. Hopefully the government fully repairs these mistakes through this committee's meeting tomorrow. the crown is overworked, legal aid is overworked, and from what Ive been told the sheriff's office in provincial court used to barely keep a float at 20 officers, now they have just 8 officers to do the same job!! really? c'mon King.. don't hire back 1 or 2 employees, instead hire back what is truly needed to do the job with quality and confidence. If you leave the justice system operating on bare bones the public will suffer..

  • joe
    April 07, 2013 - 10:23

    Look up "Northcentral University", where King got his "PhD". Its one of those kinda, sorta, yeah-I-guess-it-passes-as-a-university-but-not-really online schools. That's who you have running the court system.

  • Hard Tory Times
    April 07, 2013 - 09:51

    Darrin king is at it again. His actions are becoming a trend. Like the one off deal with the cops, the one off with OCI. The voters can't pretend any longer, the tories have to go. There shouldn't be one left in the house of assembly after bill 29. A big tory koolAid drinking friend of mind asked me why I would want to vote for the town drunk some other partys might run because they couldn't find a better candidate. My response, at least we would know where the money is going then.

  • Concerned in Corner Brook
    April 07, 2013 - 04:46

    So a committee has been established to address the concerns raised by recent cuts to justice. Tom Marshall, the Attorney General, who has not been involved with a criminal matter in 20 years and was the Minister of Justice following Lamer and described the personnel additions in 2007-08 as neccessary. Jerome Kennedy, the Finance Minister who orchestrated this fiasco. Oh yeah, he was a vocal advocate during Lamer inquiry, but willing to see cuts to justice while announcing a $21 million dollar arena for Harbour Grace. Darin King, our battled and bruised teacher that was thrust into the justice portfolio, not a clue about what justice does or what is required to do the job. Donovan Molloy, the DPP, we have not heard anything from him since his staff was cut. Why should we expect him to speak out now. More interested in keeping his job than doing his job. Nick Avis, the chair of legal aid commission, and apparently the only one allowed to speak for the commission. We did hear from him, but only after Ray K spoke out, and then Avis decided to repeat Ray's comments while announcing Ray's suspension. Ernie Boone, the high sheriff, another one who kept his mouth shut as his troops were cut. The only thing we can expect from him is more of the same, except that his propensity for profanity probably makes his silence preferrable. Bob Simmonds, really? Why? What the heck does Jerome's former law partner bring to the table? How about a few real lawyers, a deputy sheriff or two. You know, the people who actually do the job and have an idea what is required at what the real issues are. They may be able to help identify areas where cuts can be made. All I see right now is a committee of party hacks and puppets. Nothing should be expected from this exercise. Nothing substantial should

  • Tony Rockel
    April 07, 2013 - 00:05

    From the look on Darin's face, he has just stepped a great big pile of doo-doo and is trying to pretend it never happened.

  • Tony Rockel
    April 06, 2013 - 23:28

    How about striking a committee to determine how this government ever attempted to justify such an insanely stupid and wasteful project as Muskrat Falls?

  • Cyril Rogers
    April 06, 2013 - 19:51

    What kind of game is this? The government should have been doing comprehensive reviews prior to the budget coming down. I find it rather puzzling that Justice got hit so hard but all of these political staff positions are too important to be cut back in any way. I guess they were needed to pad the numbers for the VOCM "Question of the Day". Furthermore, the PC's increased the size of the public service by about 25% over the past 10 years. Did nobody bother to ask if these people were all really needed? Surely, they didn't all get hired by the Justice Department? Did they?

  • Bill
    April 06, 2013 - 16:56

    Glad to see a committee being formed to clean up King's mess. But I am surprised that there is not one woman on the committee. Guess the Premier just plain forgot some of her other priorities such as gender equity. Ah but don't worry; she will be making the final decisions. Maybe she should take the fall as she ultimately approved the stupid budget in the first place!

  • drew
    April 06, 2013 - 15:17

    May as well add Glenn Littlejohn to your committee Mr. King. He might learn something.

  • too funny
    April 06, 2013 - 15:04

    This is going to result in someone else taking the bullet for Justice. I wonder who and how many others in other departments will have to be laid-off to save a few Justice jobs.

  • bayman
    April 06, 2013 - 12:41

    Let us hope that the Committee take note of changing attitudes to whistle blowers in other countries. They are being protected, not discriminated against. Hold on to your hats. Justice to-day..Eastern Health to come.. Go whistleblowers, good luck.. We are supposed to be a Democracy not a Dictatorship.

  • on who cares
    April 06, 2013 - 12:33

    How we got to this point is well beyond me.I would really like to know how government came up with who to cut and the numbers to cut.To cut half of the sheriff officers in st.john's blows my mind away.Were they that much over staffed, if so the management should be fired. I was at the prov. court yesterday and other than seeing officers on the machine i saw know others. Court room 5 had a large number of people there none of which were sheriffs,to me thats a major security concern. Then to hear that Mr.King is getting this committee together,which I think is a great idea concerns me. My concern is simple,any member of that committee that made recommendations to the government to cut where they cut and lead us to this mess SHOULD NOT be part of this committee

  • Art
    April 06, 2013 - 12:29

    Thank the unions for driving up the cost of everything the government does. They HAVE to cut or run deficits because running any organization in this province is so expensive. They either cut here or they cut somewhere else or you just borrow away your children's future. Want less cuts? Then we have to agree to run the province like a business. Take those areas where providing services costs the most and cut those services or reduce the level of those services. Running ferry services to remote outports, subsidizing their power, spending insane amounts of money on infrastructure all to support places that create no real GDP for the province is why these cuts are happening.

  • k
    April 06, 2013 - 11:51

    Will the cost come out of their paycheck? Who and how much does Simmonds obtain , and who selected him. As for dunderdale, marshall etc. You caused this mindless, thoughtlessetc mistake. Pay for it yourselves. Act as and run this province as sincere growups. Bottom LINE HOW MUCH is the cost of this so called committee? NL. is the most despicable government run caper .

  • Whaddaya At
    April 06, 2013 - 11:07

    Who does Darin King think he's kidding ?. He knows bloody well that he screwed up, big time, by approving all those stupid layoffs in his Dept. Now that the $hit has hit the fan, they've struck a committee to ' review ' whether the cuts were too deep ?. Yeah, like, they've severed an artery and now they're gonna check to see if the cut was too deep. ?. King wants to make sure they don't compromise public confidence ?. Time for someone to tell Mr. King that it's way too late for that.

  • EDfromRED
    April 06, 2013 - 10:13

    Too bad time machines are not invented yet. We could go back to Lamer Inquiry days and bring the Justice demanding Jerome Kennedy from yesteryear, to present day, to yell at himself for gutting the Justice Dept. Why do so many elected officials lose their common sense? Looks like we are all getting the shaft so the rich can get richer with Muskrat Fall's.

  • Graham
    April 06, 2013 - 10:09

    There is that...LOST....CONFUSED...BEWILDERED look yet again. The man looks lost just like the rest of this government starting at the top with Dunderdale. we need a major protest at Confederatio building with people from all over the province

  • P F Murphy
    April 06, 2013 - 09:18

    Protective smoke screen or a common sense (a property in short supply in this govt.) reexamination? We have to wait only until Friday to see what the King and the Queen will deem our due. I hope it's cake. Yum!

  • Court Watch
    April 06, 2013 - 09:17

    With respect to the the Suspended Legal Aid Lawyer in Gander Mr. Ray Kuszelewski; Professionals round out our society and we rely on their expertise to show us the safe way. If an Engineer felt a bridge was unsafe I would expect him to Sound the Alarm! If a Doctor felt that a treatment was not appropriate and could cause imminent harm I would expect him to Sound the Alarm! If a Lawyer felt that compromises to a Legal System could potentially affect the Rights and Freedoms of the PEOPLE of Newfoundland and Labrador I EXPECT him to Sound the ALARM! Would a reasonable person in our society actually agree that this gentleman be reprimanded for Speaking Out??! I appreciate it and I EXPECT IT

  • Simple Savings
    April 06, 2013 - 09:00

    On a Go Forward plan this committee needs to review the in Excess of a quater of a Million dollar annual expense to continue running the WASH Court (Weekend and Statutory Holidays). This is an instant savings to the Justice system that will enable Justice to continue to provide the same level of services without cutting as many Jobs. Weekend Court in St.John's can be handled easily via TeleLink like its currently done right across the Province and Labrador. Eliminating Wash court will save the cost of 4 or More Volunteering Sheriffs on OT (Sat and Sunday), save the cost of Crown and Legal Aid Lawyers and as well as a Judge and Clerk being present in Atlantic Place. Accused can still make a timely Court appearance via TeleLink within the required 24hr right to appear, via the Telephone at the in Custody facility which they are being held, just like currently happens right across the Province. There is NO expense to implement this process All the equipment is currently in use at all Courts in this Province. Further more a Justice can facilitate this Court appearance from wherever suits them best, be it there office, there home study, wherever. As is current practice across the province if the Crown agrees to release an accused from an in custody facility after they are arrested, the release papers are faxed to that facility for signing and the accused walks out the door. If the crown wants to have a bail hearing the accused is held for core Court hours beginning Monday morning. This is such an easy savings of Government money it's almost too foolish to talk about. It's a process that's used right across our provincial judicial jurisdiction but has yet to be implemented in St.John's. It's also a process practiced in other Provincial jurisdictions. Eliminating the WASH Court from St.John's in no way compromises an accused's Charter of Rights, as said before it's been the practice for Years now across the island, St.John's has just acted as the HUB for facilitating.

  • original townie
    April 06, 2013 - 08:32

    Another blatant example of politicians having no clue as to running the government. Consultations with management within the justice system before making abitrary cuts would have been step one.These guys are the best skaters I've seen. Back peddling at it's finest. None of them have any experience in running businesses and government is nothing more then a business. Sad thing, every politician, regardless of color, are the same. Retired nuns and teachers. Pathetic.