Politics and the courts

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We write in response to a letter that was recently published in The Telegram by Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons (“The provincial government and thoughtless cuts,” June 7). Once again, Mr. Parsons is twisting information in an effort to undermine the public’s confidence in the justice system in Newfoundland and Labrador.

This year’s budget provided all departments an opportunity to review their core program offerings and identify areas where savings could be found while continuing to provide important services efficiently and effectively. While the Department of Justice did see reductions, the overall budget for the department has increased from $145 million in 2005-06 to approximately $240 million this year — a 66 per cent increase in just eight years.

Mr. Parsons states that government should be conducting comprehensive reviews. That is exactly what we are doing with regard to the Legal Aid system and the Sheriff’s Office. The details of both reviews were just released and we expect to receive both reports in early fall.

In his letter, Mr. Parsons mentions the Public Prosecutions Office. 

Following the delivery of the Lamer Inquiry Report, the recommendations concerning public prosecutions and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary were swiftly acted upon and both were revitalized as a result of significant investments made by this government.

There was an increase in the number of personnel as well as improvements in areas such as training, resources, policies and procedures and an enhancement in overall professional standards. Even more importantly perhaps, through increased awareness and strong leadership, there was a significant shift in the culture of the Public Prosecutions Office and the RNC that led to a new and improved way of delivering justice services in the province.

With regard to the circuit courts, Mr. Parsons is well aware that the provincial government did not make the decision to close certain ones.

The decision was made by the provincial court chief judge after he conducted a comprehensive review with an aim of determining best practices and realizing efficiencies.

This is just the type of comprehensive review that Mr. Parsons called for in his letter.

The operational costs of the courts was only one component as the review involved an assessment of individual circuit caseloads, sitting times, collapse rates and proximity to other circuit locations and home courts. The decision to close some circuit courts was not made lightly but was based on hard information. As one example, each time a circuit court was held in Burgeo, the busy provincial court in Stephenville had to be closed for an entire day. This, while the caseload in Burgeo was steadily declining and many of the matters could be dealt with over the phone.

Mr. Parsons urges government to conduct reviews and then make decisions based on the findings. This is exactly what was done with the circuit courts and yet he is still critical of the decisions that were made.

We wish to assure the people of the province that the justice system in Newfoundland and Labrador remains strong and that the people working in it are exceptional at what they do. Ensuring that residents have fair access to the justice system and that they can live safely in their communities remain our top priorities.

 

Hon. Darin King

Minister of Justice

 

Hon. Tom Marshall, Q.C.,

Attorney General

Organizations: Public Prosecutions Office, Department of Justice

Geographic location: Burgeo, Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Corporate Psycho
    June 15, 2013 - 21:58

    I thought Kennedy was the worst Justice Minister we ever had until King came along.

  • Mike
    June 15, 2013 - 18:33

    Stop! Just stop talking and listen. Neither of you know what you are talking about. It is the two of you that undermines the public confidence in the administration of criminal justice system. Neither of you have any understanding of the criminal justice system and your actions prove that ignorance. Minister king, you are a teacher, we understand your lack of understanding, but please stop talking like you know anything about the portfolio. Minister Marshall, our esteemed AG, you are a lawyer, but seriously, when was the last time you were in court room? When was the last time you carried a criminal file? If ever, it was before the Charter. So please show some respect for the stakeholders and acknowledge that you do not understand what is required. The criminal justice system is an entity made up of inextricably linked divisions. By analyzing two of those divisions in isolation, you fail to recognize the "big picture" that is required. You have increased funding for RNC, but cut prosecution resources, cut victim services resources and adult probation??? How do you explain that rationale? We see it as ignorance. It undermines our confidence in the criminal justice system. Please don't blame Mr. Parsons, it is the two of you. In fact, of the three of you, Parsons is the only one that has seen the inside of a courtroom carrying a criminal file. Maybe, just maybe, you should listen to him.

    • Eli
      June 18, 2013 - 16:08

      Michael, you correctly identify King and Marshall for the buffoons they are. But hey, the money's more than good for doing nothing except opening a mouth to insert a foot. King and Marshall excelled in that.

  • W Bagg
    June 15, 2013 - 16:28

    Darin, Tom you guys should read Wangersky's opinion piece headlined Govt should change it's tune. Thanks for the laugh Ministers!

  • Daniel Corbett
    June 15, 2013 - 14:38

    Dear Mr King: The very narrow scope of the terms of reference for the Lamer inquiry ensured that nothing of any consequence would change in the Newfoundland and Labrador Justice System. At the time of the inquiry the justice system in the province, was a disgrace to the notion of justice in the western world and today it remains completely dysfunctional, an embarrassment to every Newfoundlander and Labradorian. It is such a disgrace and embarrassment that no lawyer in the current government would agree to serve as Justice Minister and so, for that reason Mr. King you, with no background in law, have been installed in the job. If you think that I have overstated the case I will be happy to provide you with chapter and verse, my contact information can be found anywhere in the Justice system where complaints have been received. Yours most sincerely, Daniel Corbett

  • Ken Collis
    June 15, 2013 - 11:51

    So you guys are saying that the reviews should have been done before the services were cut. Right on. Finally someone admits the truth.Wait for the review before cutting the supporting funds.