Was the Supreme Court Right to Change the Law on the Right to a Speedy Trial?

Sirota, L
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The Centre for Constitutional Studies, University of Alberta

In R v Jordan, the Supreme Court of Canada held, by a 5-4 majority and over the vigorous disagreement of the concurrence, that criminal prosecutions in which a trial does not conclude by a set deadline will be presumed to breach the right to be tried within a reasonable time, protected by section 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The acceptable length of proceedings set out in the decision is of 18 months from the day charges are laid for cases that proceed without a preliminary inquiry, and 30 months otherwise. The Crown can still show that exceptional circumstances outside of its control have arisen and can explain — and excuse — a case taking longer than that, but unless it does so, a stay of proceedings will be the automatic consequence of such delay. Meanwhile, an accused will be able to show that delay below these ceilings is unconstitutionally unreasonable, but only by demonstrating not only that the delay is “markedly” greater than reasonable, but also that he or she diligently sought to have the case heard sooner.

In Constitutional Forum/Forum constitutionnel (Vol. 26, No. 3, pp. 1-6).
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