Criminal Court Case Processing Time
Research and Statistics Division
This fact sheet is based on publicly available dataFootnote 1 from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) between 2005/2006 and the most recent reporting year 2014/2015.Footnote 2 Data is also presented from Justice Canada’s Justice Effectiveness 2008 (JE) project. This study collected data to specifically analyze case processing time and factors that were affiliated with case processing delays. The JE dataset includes 3,093 criminal casesFootnote 3 from five courts in four jurisdictions.Footnote 4 The majority (90%) of these cases closed in 2008.
CaseFootnote 5 completion time declined slightly between 2005/2006 and 2014/2015
In 2005/2006 half of all adult criminal court cases were completed within 124 days. In 2014/2015, half of all cases were completed in 121 days. This represents a 2.4% decrease from 2005/2006.
Crimes against the person take the longest time to complete in adult criminal court
Cases involving crimes against the person (e.g. assault, sexual assault, manslaughter) typically take the longest to complete. Between 2005/2006 and 2014/2015, the median case time for crimes against the person cases increased 14%, from 154 to 176 days.
There were some provinces and territories that reported median case times for these cases were shorter than the national median case time. For example, Prince Edward Island reported the shortest case lengths for crimes against the person (45 days in 2005/2006 and 48 days in 2014/2015). Similarly, the Northwest Territories recorded shorter median case times for crimes against the person (44 days in 2005/2006 and 65 days in 2014/2015).
Administration of justice offences and property crime cases take the shortest time to complete in adult criminal court
The shortest median case times were for administration of justice offence (AOJO) cases (e.g. breach of probation, fail to appear, unlawfully at large) and property crime cases (e.g. fraud, theft, break and enter). The case lengths for these types of cases have generally decreased over time. In 2005/2006, the median case time for AOJO cases was 78 days; by 2014/2015, these cases had a median number of 73 days (-6%). Crimes against property cases were completed in a median number of 111 days in 2005/2006 and 104 days in 2014/2015 (-6%).
Quebec reports the longest and Prince Edward Island reports the shortest case processing time in adult criminal court
Quebec reported the longest median case time. In 2005/2006, the median case time for Quebec was 182 days; by 2014/2015, the median case time was 239 days (+31%). The next highest median case times were reported in Nova Scotia. In 2005/2006, the median case time for Nova Scotia was 125 days; by 2014/2015, the median case time was 163 days (+30%). Manitoba was the province with the third highest median case times. In 2005/2006, the median case time for Manitoba was 121 days; by 2014/2015, the median case time was 151 days (+25%).
Prince Edward Island (PEI) had the lowest median case times. In 2005/2006, the median case time for PEI was 33 days; by 2014/2015, the median case time was 47 days (+42%). The Northwest Territories had the second lowest median case times. In 2005/2006, the median case time for the Northwest Territories was 23 days; by 2013/2014, the median case time was 61 days (+165%).
Legal representation shown to impact case processing time
Data from Justice Canada’s Justice Effectiveness (JE) studyFootnote 6 indicate that legal representation was shown to be a factor associated with case processing time, with cases having intermittent legal representation requiring, on averageFootnote 7, 298 days to reach conclusion. In comparison, cases with total representation took an average of 160 days and those with no representation took an average of 189 days to completion.
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