News / Ottawa

Ottawa's Crown prosecutors carry an average of 240 cases a year

Delays in the system led to a first-degree murder charge being stayed earlier this month.

Protestors gathered outside the Ottawa courthouse after a murder charge against Adam Picard was dismissed due to court delays.

Haley Ritchie / Metro

Protestors gathered outside the Ottawa courthouse after a murder charge against Adam Picard was dismissed due to court delays.

The average Crown prosecutor in Ottawa carries 244 cases a year – a situation that people in the justice system say is leading to delays and a clogged courthouse.

Earlier this month, Adam Picard, who was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Fouad Nayel, was released because it had taken four years to bring his case to trial.

Brendan Crawley, a spokesperson for Ontario's ministry of the attorney general, said the average case load between April 2015 and March 2016 was 244 cases per Crown prosecutor – up slightly from a case load of 236 the previous year.

Crawley said that’s a simplified calculation that doesn’t show the true picture of the demands Crown prosecutors are under.

“The assignment of each criminal case to individual Crowns is based on a number of factors, including the seriousness of the offence , case complexity, trial Crown experience, and scheduling demands,” he said.

Since 2014, there has been an average of 44 Crown attorneys in Ottawa, he added.

Kate Matthews, president of the Ontario Crown Attorney’s Association, said that’s a heavy case load and the cases are more complicated than they once were, with more video or technical evidence and other issues.

“The cases themselves are far more complicated, so it takes much longer to prepare,” she said. “That is not going to go way, cases are not going to get less complicated.”

She said most crowns are spending a significant amount of time in court, making it harder to prepare for cases.

Anne London-Weinstein, president of the Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa, said the issue with Crowns spreads to the rest of the system, with legal aid and other resources also underfunded.

“The overall atmosphere in criminal justice is that there is a lack of funding,” she said.  

She said she wouldn’t speak for prosecutors, but can see they are handling much more work than they used to.

“I can see that the crowns have a lot more on their plate and I can see that they have less time.”

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