By mid-September, the government should have a better idea of what needs to be done to improve the Legal Aid system and the Sheriff’s Office in the province, after Justice Minister Darin King ordered a pair of independent reviews Thursday.
The two reviews were part of a commitment King made earlier this spring when he rolled back cuts to the court system announced in the March 26 provincial budget.
“I have every confidence that what they bring back will be very useful to us in improving the system,” King said. “If that means that we need to change some of how we do some things, we’re prepared to look at that, and if it means that we have to add some more resources in certain areas, then we’re certainly prepared to look at that as part of the budget process.”
Retired RCMP Inspector Leigh DesRoches will do a review of the Office of the High Sheriff including a security audit of risk management and staffing to maximize efficiencies in the court system.
Separately, retired Provincial Court Judge John Rorke will do a comprehensive review of the Legal Aid system.
Liberal justice critic Andrew Parsons said he’s waiting to see what actually comes from these two reviews.
“I’m not going to hold my breath, because they said the exact same with public prosecutions a number of years ago, and nothing got done,” he said. “I want to wait and see where it goes, and if it’s actually going to get done.”
Both reviews are supposed to completed within three months, so they should be done by mid-September.
New Democrat MHA Gerry Rogers said the reviews should have been done before any budget cuts were put into place.
“Why wasn’t this done before the cuts?” she asked. “What were these cuts based on? Certainly not on any kind of empirical evidence.”
Rogers pointed to the Family Violence Intervention Court — one of her pet causes — which was eliminated in the budget this spring to save money.
She said she hopes Rorke’s review will look at that separate court, which kept some family violence cases out of the regular system, and how it affected Legal Aid.
King said he didn’t know how long it would be, after the reports are completed, before they are made public. But he said people will definitely get to read the two reviews for themselves at some point.
“It will become a public document. There’s no question about that,” he said.