Wed. Dec 6th, 2023

A cause of aggression sexual violence rejected due to delays

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The new Toronto courthouse was inaugurated in February, but that does not solve the delays for litigants. (Archive photo)

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An Ontario woman laments that her sexual assault case was dismissed last week due to delays at the Toronto courthouse due to a lack of staff. She asks that actions be taken to prevent other victims from experiencing the same situation.

The trial involving Emily Ager began in July. After just one day of hearing, where she testified before the accused, it was pushed back to November 7, before being dismissed.

Before all this, I knew our justice system was broken, but I didn't think it was completely destroyed, she confided during an interview on the show Metro Morning from CBC last week.

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Emily Ager wants to “shed light on the situation” publicly so that things change and no one else experiences a situation like hers.

According to her, the system, which is supposed to protect us all, has failed.

If a friend revealed to me that they were the victim of sexual assault, I can't say that I would encourage them to take legal action. I have lost faith in our justice system.

A quote from Emily Ager, plaintiff whose sexual assault case was dismissed

The current system, as I know it, does not support survivors. We feel alone, we suffer and we are traumatized again, she laments.

For Brendan Neil, lawyer specializing in criminal law, these comments are too common.

Emily's comments about her loss of confidence in the system are heard by everyone. Defendants, survivors, plaintiffs, judges making difficult decisions, he notes. It's an ongoing problem.

Wilhelmine Babua, the executive director of Toronto House, says the administration's refusal to justice can undermine a victim's confidence in the justice system and discourage others from reporting.

The refusal to administer justice doubly victimizes victims of sexual assault: a first time by the criminal, and a second time by a failing judicial system.

A quote from Wilhelmine Babua, the general director of the Maison de Toronto

According to her, this can create a cycle of under-reporting, thereby encouraging attackers in their criminal behavior.

Staff shortages at Toronto's new courthouse have forced several adjournments of hearings, postponements of trials, and dropped charges in recent months. Notably, a sexual assault case was dismissed in September due to unreasonable delays.

There is usually more than one trial scheduled per day in court […] which puts crown counsel in a very difficult position, trying to determine which case should be dealt with, says Brendan Neil. This problem was accentuated in Toronto with the new courthouse and the staff shortage that followed, adds the lawyer.

Justice: increasingly long delays in Ontario. SHOW HERE FIRST. No two mornings are the same.

Justice: increasingly long delays in Ontario same mornings

Listen to the audio (Justice: increasingly long delays in Ontario. 8 minutes 17 seconds)

He explains that when the new courthouse was built, several staff members from the region did not want to work there for several personal reasons, thus causing a labor shortage.

Brendan Neil says this is a systemic problem, particularly due to the increase in population and the lack of resources to serve it. All levels of government must intervene, he says.

Any courtroom closure is unacceptable, says a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General in an emailed statement.

He notes the ministry has provided full-time employment opportunities to existing child care staff and is now recruiting new permanent full-time staff with an additional $6 million in funding through its strategy to reduce court backlogs.

How come this wasn't avoided from the start?, asks Emily. There have been months of warning signs.

According to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, every accused person has the right to be tried in a reasonable period of time. Barring exceptional circumstances, this time limit is 18 months in Ontario.

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