Steering Committee on Justice Efficiencies and Access to the Justice System

II - Methodology

2.1 Consultation

The members of the Working Group carried out a broad consultation of their respective colleagues, asking them to identify the difficulties they have encountered in their practice and submit proposals for reform. The Working Group's initiative brought responses from stakeholders in all areas consulted: the judiciary, Crown prosecutors and defence counsel. Most respondents submitted concrete proposals or suggested avenues for reflection on the problems they identified.

2.2 Selection of themes for examination

The Working Group noted at the outset that a number of the comments and proposals received during the consultation process had already been discussed, or were to be discussed, in a separate review by the Steering Committee. That was the case for issues and proposals raised during its work on mega-trials and self-represented accused.
Certain issues identified by the respondents also are, or have been, the subject of extensive work in other forums, such as the complexity of various defences (e.g., self-defence) which is being examined by an ad hoc working group of the Coordinating Committee of Senior Officials (CCSO), and jury representativeness (e.g., choice of source list and minority representation), which was the subject of an earlier study by a committee of the Uniform Law Conference (UCC).

The Working Group also noted that some of the difficulties reported could be solved locally by changing relevant administrative practices or amending provincial legislation relating to the qualification of prospective jurors, the summoning of juries, and jury panels (for example, improving criminal record check procedures). Issues of this type could be solved through discussions, between provincial governments or within the judiciary, on the adoption of best practices.

Other issues where provincial governments are frontline actors warranted consideration in view of their prevalence and their impact on the functioning and integrity of the jury system, more specifically the conditions in which jurors perform their duties and the economic burden of jury duty.

The Working Group also received innovative proposals for amending criminal procedure that are more of a technical nature and beyond the framework of jury trials (for example, facilitating the joinder of indictments). In view of its mandate, however, the Working Group focused on the issues more directly related to the efficiency of jury trials.

After considering the consensus likely to be reached in the light of the results of its consultation, the progress of ongoing work in other forums and the discussions within the Steering Committee following Working Group status reports or draft reports, the following issues were selected for this report:

  • the right to jury trial;
  • the conditions in which jurors perform their duties;
  • jury selection;
  • jury instructions;
  • the jury sequestration rule during deliberations;
  • the publication of information by the media during jury deliberations;
  • the jury deliberations confidentiality rule in relation to the possibility of conducting research on jurors.
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