Once a defendant has been either released on bail or detained in custody pending trial, their case will move into an “administrative phase.”
This phase includes a number of administrative court appearances before a justice of the peace in the Ontario Court of Justice’s “remand court” or a judge in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice’s “assignment court.” The purpose of these court appearances is for the court to maintain jurisdiction over the case and to ensure that the case proceeds in an orderly fashion while the lawyers prepare. The defendant must personally appear at each administrative appearance, unless they retain a lawyer to appear on their behalf.
This phase also includes meetings between the lawyers on either side to discuss special issues, diversion, peace bonds and guilty pleas, or trial matters. Most meetings are held between the prosecution and the defendant’s lawyer, while some meetings are held between the prosecution, the defendant’s lawyer, and a neutral judge who can provide guidance to the lawyers.
This administrative phase typically lasts several months. During this period, the defendant’s lawyer will obtain “disclosure” of the prosecution’s investigation (e.g. notes from officers, statements from witnesses, audio- / video-recordings) and the defendant’s lawyer may also conduct his or her own defence investigation into the charges. Once all the administrative steps are completed, the parties will appear in remand court or assignment court once more to advise the court about how the case will proceed.
If the case is to be resolved through diversion or a peace bond, then the charges may be withdrawn in court as soon as both sides are ready to complete the case.
If the case is to be resolved with a guilty plea, then the charges may be transferred to a general guilty plea court or to a specific judge’s court in relatively short order.
If the case will proceed to trial, then the parties will schedule dates for pre-trial procedures and / or trial dates, which often take between six and twelve months. Importantly, under subsection 11(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, anyone charged with an offence has the right to a trial within a “reasonable time.” If a defendant’s trial dates have been delayed by the prosecution or the court system, then he or she may bring a pre-trial application to have their charges stayed under subsection 24(1) of the Charter as a remedy.
Our lawyers work closely with clients throughout the administrative phase of their cases to ensure that they understand and benefit from their rights. In particular, we work diligently to protect our clients’ rights to a trial within a reasonable time, we obtain fulsome disclosure from the prosecutors, and we conduct our own defence investigations, often with the help of private investigators.
This blog post is part of our Canadian criminal justice series – we hope that these blog posts will shed some light on the Canadian criminal justice system for clients and potential clients, members of the community, and law students. Feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org propose any changes or updates.