Rioters may avoid justice due to strained system: expert

Wait time for short trial date is up to 16 months
June 29, 2011
VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) - Experts say unless changes are made to our justice system, many Stanley Cup rioters may never go to court because resources like judges and prosecutors are already strained.

The other problem is the limited availability of court times in Vancouver, where all cases would have to be heard because that's where the crimes took place.

The wait time for a short trial date is currently up to 16 months.

News1130's legal analyst Michael Shapray says ignored requests for more resources in the past are finally catching up to the provincial government.

"Vancouver Provincial Court is going to bare the brunt of the impact of those hundreds of cases, and I don't think those... cases are capable of being accommodated," he says.

"If there are no additional resources put in to the system then I think it's highly unlikely the system is going to be able to functionally accommodate the number of cases that are predicted."

Former Supreme Court Judge Wally Oppal tells News1130 we're forgetting the long process it takes just to get to court.

"The police have this monumental task of going through all of the evidence to then do their reports, and the Crown [Counsel] decides which charges ought to be laid on the advice of the police," he tells News1130. "But that will take some time."

He adds serious cases usually get priority, but that takes longer, which could further delay other cases coming down the pike.

"It will depend on the availability of the witnesses," he explains. "It will depend on how long it takes to get all the evidence before the prosecutors."

Attorney General Barry Penner says as far as he's concerned things are moving smoothly, and the province has the tools and capacity to handle big cases. New legislation has also been given Royal Assent for the Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act.

"This legislation will help reduce some of the inherent duplication and improve criminal procedures to reduce the number of days required to try these cases," says Penner.

But Shapray says the province will likely feel the effects of the riot for years, after repeatedly ignoring calls for more resources.