Doug Ford needs to put down his dollar beer, leave the tailgate party and head over to his local courthouse. His absolute amputation of the criminal legal aid services under the umbrella of saving money and reallocating tax dollars is completely misguided and will cost you, the taxpayer, millions more.
First and foremost, there are smart ways to save money and dumb ways that end up costing us more. Our court system is so outdated in terms of efficiency that we might as well be in an episode of the Flintstones.
All that is needed is a push for a modernized manner for completing simple administrative tasks.
I write this as I sit in a remand court. I have three first appearance matters to deal with. They are all impaired driving matters, and all will be adjourned for a month to allow me to get the Crown disclosure package. I will ultimately make that request when my matters are called, and I get to address the court. The Crown may not even say a word before the Court, puts the rubber stamp on things, and we all move on. As I wait, I am not alone. The benches are full of lawyers, also waiting. The Crown is here, security, a court officer (different from security), two clerks, a court reporter and the Justice of the Peace– all equalling to hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries.
An efficient system would be one where first appearances could simply be done online. The courts would have a secure website, and each lawyer would be assigned a key code. For simple adjournments, lawyers can log in and adjourn things online. This would save the waiting, save the salaries, save the time and save the resources. This would leave courtrooms to be used solely for bail hearings, pleas and timely trials.
Computerized scheduling happens in all forms of business; why not law?
Multi-million-dollar real estate deals are all done online using real estate law software. Many family court motions are adjourned without ever having the parties appear in Court.
The government is slashing funding to legal aid, thus preventing those most vulnerable from access to legal services. This all happens while we all wait. There are other ways to save money, and anyone with actual knowledge of the workings of the criminal justice system will see that there are other ways to save money.
Cutting legal aid will send more people to jail, and jail is the worst solution for minor offenders. Jail costs millions and makes more harmful criminals.
Legal Aid is an investment in crime reduction not a cost.
We need to rehabilitate not incarcerate our drug addicts and mental health sufferers. Sadly, we have not learned from Mike Harris’ cuts to mental health decades ago. Wherein, most people who suffer with severe mental health issues ended up in jail, costing all of us three times more in tax dollars.
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By: Nick Cake