I respond to the insightful article on The Telegram’s March 30 front page by Rosie Gillingham, “‘A recipe for disaster,’” and the candid comments of the Crown attorney interviewed therein. Her story of dedication is typical of what I have noted of the Crown office.
As a criminal law practitioner and former provincial prosecutor, I am deeply concerned about the severe budget cuts to crown attorneys, legal aid, corrections, family violence, probation and others in the justice system.
Those of us who practice regularly in the trenches of our provincial and Supreme Court system are in a unique position to know the importance and essential nature of these positions in order to have a fair and effectively functioning system.
The task of a Crown attorney involves great responsibility (just see the Lamer inquiry report). There must be careful preparation of each case and professional dealings with complainants, witnesses, police, defense counsel and the courts.
Similarly, legal aid lawyers practice patiently in our family courts and handle cases for those charged with criminal offences. (While all of these cases have a certain momentum of their own — some slower than others — they must move through the system to an eventual resolution.) Also, corrections and Sheriff’s officers are responsible for security, safety and public order in our courts, and probation officers assist with the sentencing process and enforcement of court orders.
These groups are all connected and integral to each other, and cutbacks to one impacts upon the proper functioning of the other; our courts and the overall administration of justice. Public interest and public safety will suffer and this must concern us all.
I am surprised to see comments from government officials saying such things as additional caseloads can be managed, service maintained, business as usual, and that we should allow time for things to settle down.
However, government cannot simply apply a mathematical formula of cutbacks; or a wait and see attitude to our integrated justice system (a system that is people-oriented and constantly moving forward) — without expecting dire consequences to result.
Some defense counsel have already spoken out publicly against these cutbacks and their significant impact on the justice system.
I encourage all those who are leaders and/or those who care about the administration of justice in our province to raise concerns to this government.