Our court systems have been said to be inefficient, ineffective, and backlogged in recent years, sometimes resulting in cases being dismissed due to lengthy delays. After my visit to court, I have formed opinions and observations on the efficiency and effectiveness of our criminal court system. The procedures in provincial court are systematic and carried out swiftly.
It is much like a tennis match. The ball, or control in the court, is volleyed back and forth between the judge (and court clerk) and the lawyers. The court clerk arraigns the accused, and the defense lawyer responds with how the accused pleads. If it is not guilty,” the court clerk asks how the Crown lawyer wishes to proceed and so forth. However, this is not so in the Ontario Supreme Court (Trial Division). Though similar in methodical procedures, the court cases are longer, and much more time is spent on each individual part of the case, from presenting the evidence to cross-examination of the witness. This is because of the amount of information involved. The general atmosphere and behavior in the Provincial Courtrooms were generally loose and calm. The people, lawyers, judge, clerk, and recorder seem to know each other very well.
They joked openly, even while the court was in session. The defence lawyer asked if he could persuade the judge into a lighter sentence after the judge had already made a decision in a very easy and friendly tone of voice. This was seemingly unprofessional and caused chuckles throughout the courtroom. The atmosphere in the Ontario Supreme Court was much more serious, professional, strict, and at times high in tension. Our current bail system, in either monetary terms or personal recognizance, seemed pretty successful in Provincial Court. However, it was not observed in the Ontario Supreme Court. All the people did show up for their trial, which included two people on bail for possession of marijuana cigarettes. As a final note, no bench warrant was ever called for by the judge for people who failed to attend their trial. The duty council is necessary for those who don’t have a lawyer, and it’s for their benefit that they discuss legal options that the accused might have before proceeding. However, this part of the system is not very efficient as the court must adjourn for this and thus waste valuable time that could be otherwise used for processing other court cases. The Crown Attorney in provincial court was, on the whole, fairly well prepared, efficiently bringing relevant facts to attention, friendly and well acquainted with the defence lawyers as well as the judge, and quick to get to the point that he was trying to prove.
There was little time wasted between the arraignment and the sentencing on the part of the Crown Attorney. In the Ontario Supreme Court, the Crown Attorney seemed well prepared, efficient, and quick. However, there seemed to be a lack of personal involvement in the case. He appeared emotionless and just doing his job, not being familiar with the judge or other people in the courtroom. By the way he presented and dressed, he appeared far more strict and serious in conduct and appearance than his Provincial Court counterpart. Calling a remand can be helpful in allowing witnesses, especially key witnesses, to be present at a later date when it is possible for them to attend the trial, as duty may call them to do otherwise.
The disadvantages, however, are mostly on the accused’s part, as he or she must remain in custody longer in order to be brought back to trial. The necessity for a lawyer for minor offenses can sometimes outweigh the cost the accused must pay for them. Because the lawyer understands the law and how the system works, he might be able to point out small discrepancies or suggest what type and how much punishment is suitable for the accused’s crime. The lawyer may also point out that if the person has a record, how old it really is, as records older than 5 years that are not cleared are disregarded by the judge. They also help the cases progress faster, as an accused’s legal options will be already made clear to him or her by their lawyer. Lawyers are absolutely necessary for major cases, as the accused may not understand their legal rights clearly or may not know how to defend themselves correctly during trial in court.
Court judges in Provincial Court were generally looser than those in Ontario Supreme Court. The judges in Supreme Court seemed more serious, lacked emotional expressions, and easily became bored. However, in Provincial Court, they were serious but allowed for humor and understanding of the accused’s situation. Overall, they appeared to enjoy their jobs. The current system cannot be any better as it is as efficient as possible without violating any individual’s rights as outlined in the Charter.