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 2006/2007 and 2016/2017.Footnote 2 Data is also presented from the Department of Justice Canada’s Justice Effectiveness 2008 (JE) project that collected data to specifically analyze case processing time and factors that were associated 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.
This is an update to a similar JustFacts published in 2017.
CaseFootnote 5 completion time increased slightly between 2006/2007 and 2016/2017
In 2006/2007 half of all adult criminal court cases were completed within 125 days. In 2016/2017, half of all cases were completed in 141 days. This represents a 14% increase from 2006/2007.
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 2006/2007 and 2016/2017, the median case time for crimes against the person cases increased 15%, from 159 to 186 days. Saskatchewan was the only province or territory that recorded a decrease in median case length (-1.5%) for crimes against the person (133 days in 2006/2007 and 131 days in 2016/2017).
Prince Edward Island and the Northwest Territories (57 days in 2016/2017) reported the shortest case lengths for crimes against the person, followed by Nunavut (79 days in 2016/2017), Saskatchewan (131 days in 2016/2017) and New Brunswick (147 days in 2016/2017).
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 increased over time. The median case time for AOJO cases increased by 11% from 77 days in 2006/2007 to 87 days in 2016/2017. Crimes against property cases were completed in a median number of 113 days in 2006/2007 and 125 days in 2016/2017, an increase of +1.8%.
Québec reports the longest and Prince Edward Island reports the shortest case processing time in adult criminal court
Québec reported the longest median case time. In 2006/2007, the median case time for Québec was 183 days; by 2016/2017, the median case time peaked at 246 days (+34%). As noted earlier, the median length of case completion in Québec may be overestimated given that data from municipal courts, which tend to handle the least serious matters, are unavailable.
The next highest median case times were reported in Newfoundland & Labrador. In 2006/2007, the median case time for Newfoundland & Labrador was 120 days; by 2016/2017, the median case time was 189 days (+58%). Nova Scotia was the province with the third highest median case times. In 2006/2007, the median case time for Nova Scotia was 122 days; by 2016/2017, the median case time was 169 days (+39%).
Prince Edward Island (PEI) had the lowest median case times. In 2006/2007, the median case time for PEI was 30 days; by 2016/2017, the median case time was 43 days (+43%). Saskatchewan had the second lowest median case times. In 2006/2007, the median case time for Saskatchewan was 92 days; by 2016/2017, the median case time was 78 days (-15%). British Columbia also showed a decrease in media case times. In 2006/2007, the median case time for British Columbia was 109 days; by 2015/2016, the median case time was 107 days (-1.8%).
Legal representation shown to impact case processing time
Data from Justice Canada’s Justice Effectiveness (JE) study indicate that legal representation may be a factor associated with case processing time, with cases having intermittent legal representation requiring, on averageFootnote 6, 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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