The SCJ and MAG continue to expand the use of CaseLines, a cloud-based document sharing platform for remote and in-person court proceedings.
For criminal matters, CaseLines will only be used on matters where there is counsel and access will only be available to lawyers and their designated staff. Direct access to Caselines will not be available to accused persons, witnesses, etc whether or not they are represented by counsel. Lawyers must not provide CaseLines access to their clients. Lawyers must arrange to share necessary documents with their clients using other appropriate means.
Under the leadership of the OBA, FOLA joined with Legal Aid Ontario (LAO), The Advocates’ Society (TAS) in an effort to assist the Court in identifying which matters ought to be prioritized as remote operations continue to be expanded.
Here is a copy of our letter (dated June 23, 2020) to The Honourable Lise Maisonneuve Chief Justice of the OCJ outlining our recommendations.
The Ontario government, in collaboration with the Ontario Court of Justice and policing partners, is launching a new eIntake digital platform that will accelerate and simplify the way criminal charges are filed and managed.
This new initiative will allow police officers to digitally file criminal charges to the court as an alternative to the current requirement of appearing before a Justice of the Peace. The eIntake platform will also allow Justices of the Peace to enter their decisions and sign documents digitally and request additional information from police online.
OCTOBER 2020 UPDATE
As you may recall, in August 2020, the ministry communicated to stakeholders and municipalities that a Request for Services would be issued to retain an external vendor to review programs that support the delivery of court security and inmate transportation across the province, including the Court Security and Prisoner Transportation (CSPT) Transfer Payment (TP) Program.
Under the CSPT TP Program, the ministry allocates funding to municipalities to offset costs associated with both court security and prisoner transportation services to and from courts.
The ministry has now retained an independent consultant, Goss Gilroy Inc. (GGI), with expertise in public safety and security to conduct the review, following a competitive procurement process. In the upcoming weeks, Goss Gilroy Inc. will engage ministry stakeholders – including municipalities, police services and other justice sector partners – to help assess and identify improvements to the court security and inmate transportation process and the design of the CSPT TP Program.
The review will explore best practices and ways to improve the delivery of services, streamline processes and maximize effectiveness to ensure the continued safety of Ontarians. This continuous improvement effort is part of the government’s ongoing work to build a more responsive and resilient justice system.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General has worked with its vendor to enhance the current Offender Management Telephone System (OTMS) to allow inmates to access both collect calls and “debit” calling.
Whereas the old system only allowed for collect calling (which does not allow for calls to cell phones), under the enhanced system, debit calling is enabled and funded by the ministry. Debit calling allows for calls to cell phones.
The ministry will begin by providing inmates with $20 of calls and will monitor to determine whether this is adequate. Inmates will be able to use their funds as they see fit. This funding will allow for:
The phone system currently allows for organizations to register with the ministry to by-pass security features, such as three-way calling, call transfers and the use of the keypad. This exemption is provided for the purpose of facilitating the transfer of offender calls from a receptionist or automated telephone attendant system to the intended call recipient.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General has prepared the attached information to outline the different ways that inmates can access a Temporary Absence Permit (TAP), including the proactive early release reviews that the ministry has initiated. Recall that LAO has recently introduced as a COVID 19 response a modest increase in certificate coverage to allow lawyers to seek early release remedies at both federal and provincial institutions.
**UPDATE REGARDING C-75**
The Law Society Benchers, at the September 2019 Convocation, passed a motion that to preserve (as closely as possible) the range of services currently provided by regulated agents, in response to the enactment of Bill C-75:
a) with respect to paralegal scope of activities, the following two-stage approach:
i. amending By-Law 4, in principle, to establish a scope for criminal matters
comprised of the following:
1) all offences that were punishable by a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment when proceeding by summary conviction at the time that Bill C-75 was enacted; and
2) four offences that had been within agent scope since the onset of regulation but were amended by Bill C-46, and as a result of which were no longer within scope as of December 17, 2018: specifically, sections 320.13(1), 320.16(1), 320.17, 320.18(1) of the Criminal Code; and
ii. continue to review and develop the scope of activities for paralegals in criminal law matters, taking into account education and training standards and competency development in this field before Bill C-75 comes into force.
These were the recommendations as laid out in the Paralegal Standing Committee Report for September 11, 2019 Convocation
On September 19, 2019, Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, came into force. The resulting amendments to the Criminal Code have altered the landscape for legal advocates in the area of criminal law. Among other changes, the default maximum penalty for summary conviction offences has been raised from six months’ imprisonment to two years less a day. An overview of Bill C-75 can be found here.
FOLA's Concerns with C-75
Nonwithstanding some improvements, FOLA shared the concerns of the Criminal Bar Association and focused our submission on three key areas:
1. Restricting Preliminary Inquiries;
2. Eliminating jury peremptory challenges; and
3. Allowing routine evidence to be admitted by affidavit
FOLA believes that access to justice in the criminal sphere includes access to both procedural fairness and a strong presumption of innocence. While work needs to be done to modernize the system and allow for alternative methods of discovering witnesses and minimizing the adversarial process in certain types of cases, engagement of the practicing bar will be key in ensuring the greatest gains are made in reforming the system.
Our submission can be found here.