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Need for new courts urgent, says top judge

A dire warning from Ontario’s top judge about “potential miscarriages of justice” if new courthouses aren’t built must not go unheeded by the province, criminal lawyers and critics say.

A dire warning from Ontario’s top judge about “potential miscarriages of justice” if new courthouses aren’t built must not go unheeded by the province, criminal lawyers and critics say.

Despite Chief Justice Warren Winkler’s assessment that there’s a “pressing need” for new and improved facilities to deal with caseloads, the opposition says court infrastructure just isn’t a priority for the governing Liberals.

And in addition to the need for new court buildings, many of the current ones are woefully out of date, said Paul Burstein, president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association.

“Unless we build more courthouses we will continue to experience unreasonable delays,” Burstein said in an interview.

There needs to be a provincewide audit of the existing facilities to see whether they meet minimum requirements for lawyers, judges, the public and other justice system players, he added.

“I would bet while many do satisfy those requirements, there’s probably regrettably ... too many that don’t.”

In the annual opening of the courts speech last month, Winkler said it is “indisputable that if we want cases to be dealt with in a timely manner, we must improve our courthouse facilities.”

Many courthouses are lacking technology in an age when a lot of multimedia evidence, such as surveillance video or wiretap audio, is presented, Burstein said.

“There’s a much greater need for access to electronics and different forms of media,” he said.

“You can go into many courthouses in Ontario and there’s not even a plug available.”

 
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