Canadian courts are overburdened and slow moving. There are too few judges, prosecutors, and even courtrooms. Plus, the system has not leveraged any technology since fax machines. The government has been reluctant to increase funding to the judicial system, and the average person is simply not interested in having their tax dollars spent on a system which – as far as they know – works perfectly fine or won’t affect them.

Dangerous criminals released because courts are too full

Recently in R v Jordan, the Supreme Court reinterpreted the right to a speedy trial. The Court held that in all criminal cases, prosecutors must complete trials within 18 or 30 months (depending on the court). Unless a prosecutor can show that the delay was because of exceptional circumstances, any delays that exceed these time limits are presumed unreasonable and thus in breach of section 11(b) of the Charter.

Jordan is important because lower courts must follow the Supreme Court’s interpretation. Generally, if an accused is not prosecuted within the required time frame, he or she is free to go.

Defendants are being released merely because their prosecution took too long - not necessarily because they aren't guilty. For example, a man accused of sexually assaulting his stepdaughter hundreds of times over the past 8 years was released. Over the four-year trial, the accused’s stepdaughter testified twice, but in the end, the accused did not face justice because of the delays. In another case, an ex-soldier accused of first-degree murder was recently released due to delays.  As he released the accused, the judge wrote, “the justice system has failed this accused and the public.” According to the Ottawa Citizen, 68 people were released on these grounds in the last 8 months.

Criminal cases get priority so all others must wait

To ensure accused offenders are tried within the Jordan time limits, criminal trials take scheduling priority. Consequently, non-criminal trials get pushed back. Accident victims, parents seeking custody, and those who have suffered any non-criminal injustice often wait far longer for their day in court than someone who has been accused of a crime. Given that about half of all Canadians encounter at least one legal problem within a given 3-year period, these delays will affect most of the population.

According to a 2016 study by the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice.

According to a 2016 study by the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice.

Even more troubling is that in some cases, while parties wait out these long delays, lives hang in the balance. Andrea Girones awaits a medical malpractice trial in which she will represent a severely disabled five-year-old girl. The trial was set to begin in February of this year, but was delayed indefinitely in December. In the meantime, the girl’s parents must cover the insurmountable costs associated with caring for a disabled child without any compensation.

Neutral Algorithmic Evaluations can relieve trial backlog

Miralaw wants to prevent criminals from being released merely because of delays, and keep the legal system available to those who need it. We believe Neutral Algorithmic Evaluations can help.

Neutral Algorithmic Evaluations use natural language processing and harness the power of neural networks. Our algorithmic evaluations help users understand their legal position by comparing their facts with the most similar previously decided case. 

Judges have evaluated almost all legal positions a user may find themselves in, so, there is usually at least one case close enough to the user’s to give them an idea of what would happen if they went to court. Miralaw has already developed an evaluation tool for family law and looks forward to working with the government to bring this powerful technology to other areas of law, like civil law and small claims.

Neutral Algorithmic Evaluations can reduce the numbers of cases going to court, and accelerate the ones that do

One reason the courts are backlogged is that some people make baseless claims or don’t realize that going to court is hardly ever in their best interest. Neutral Algorithmic Evaluations can help people reflect on their claims and reduce the number of cases that make it to court. First, these evaluations can help people with weak claims avoid going to court by providing them the information they need to make an informed decision. Second, neutral evaluations can help users understand that even if it looks like their case would likely be won, they may spend more time and money pursuing the case than their claim is worth. Thus, fewer claims going to court.

Some civil matters are best resolved outside the courtroom. However, despite the availability of dispute resolution alternatives, many choose to litigate, often to their own financial and emotional detriment. Neutral Algorithmic Evaluations help discourage this behaviour. They give users a neutral assessment as to how their claim might play out in court and provide them with valuable information to drive their negotiation, mediation, or other out-of-court resolution. Neutral Algorithmic Evaluations dispel unrealistic expectations and clarify misunderstandings of the law. They encourage parties to resolve their issues outside of a trial setting which can help reduce the strain on court resources, increase efficiency within the justice system, and leave parties happier and with more in their pocket than if they had opted for a trial.

Finally, the number of Canadians choosing to self-represent in civil court is rising. This too has contributed to court backlog since many self-represented litigants (though often through no fault of their own) arrive at trial unprepared. Some need considerable assistance from judges and this drags out their proceedings. 

Neutral Algorithmic Evaluations could help prepare self-represented litigants for trial by familiarizing them with arguments and outcomes from past cases that are similar to their situation. Parties can use these evaluations to help them predict which of their arguments could work, which ones may fail, and how best to navigate their proceedings. Apart from discouraging self-represented litigants from pursuing likely-to-fail claims, Neutral Algorithmic Evaluations may also better prepare them for what they can expect at trial and reduce their time in court.

By reducing the caseload in areas outside of criminal law, Neutral Algorithmic Evaluations can free up existing resources for criminal law. Thus, the right to a speedy trial is respected, potential criminals are less likely to be released on procedural technicalities, and the courts remain available to those who really need them. By reducing the number of cases going to court, the evaluations would quickly pay for themselves. Neutral Algorithmic Evaluations can solve Canada’s trial backlog crisis.

To learn more, contact us.

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