Landmark Decision on Criminal Trials within a Reasonable Time

The Supreme Court of Canada recently released a new decision that defines the timeline for criminal trials in Canada. R. v. Jordan, 2016 SCC 27, completely reforms the time limits placed on the State for an accused person to have their trial within a reasonable time.

Prior to this decision, s. 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms dictated that an accused person must have their trial within a reasonable time; this amount of time was not defined. It was up to the trial judge in each case to determine what “reasonable” meant. For example, in remote jurisdictions with only a few circuit courts a year, it generally takes much longer to get to trial than in a city center. In addition, each province has their own system in place for ensuring that the earliest possible trial dates are provided. In some cities, a trial within one year of being charged could be considered reasonable, while in others, two years could be reasonable.

Now with the decision in Jordan, the presumptive ceiling going forward is that trials within the Provincial Court should be heard within 18 months of the date the Information was sworn, and trials within Supreme Court should be heard within 30 months to be deemed reasonable. Delay attributable to the accused, and certain extraordinary and unavoidable circumstances, can extend this timeline.

Of note, the Supreme Court of Canada split 5-4 on this decision.

For a link to the full decision, see: R v. Jordan.

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