Presentation on theme: " Responsibility for Canada’s criminal courts is divided between the Federal and Provincial governments. The Federal parliament: ◦ Responsible for formulating."— Presentation transcript:
Responsibility for Canada’s criminal courts is divided between the Federal and Provincial governments. The Federal parliament: ◦ Responsible for formulating criminal law ◦ Establishing courts to administer various federal laws ◦ Example: The Supreme Court of Canada The Federal Court of Canada and The tax court of Canada The Provincial court system consists of provincial courts and the superior court of the province ◦ Provincial courts have trial divisions ◦ Superior courts have both trial and appeals divisions
Figure 7.2The Canadian Criminal Court Structure and Avenues of Appeal, p. 163
Provincial court is the lowest level of Canadian courts. Judges are appointed by the provincial government and cases are tried by judge alone. They have the jurisdiction to hear summary conviction offences, less serious crimes that carry a lighter penalty, and certain indictable offences, more serious crimes that carry a heavier penalty. A person’s first contact with the criminal court system is usually in provincial court, because this court conducts all preliminary hearings, a judicial inquiry to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to put the accused person on trial. An appeal is an application to a higher court to review the decision made by a lower court. An appeal from the provincial court regarding a summary conviction offence is heard by a single judge of the superior court. If it’s regarding an indictable offence, it is heard by the appeals division of the superior court, a panel of three to five judges.
They are the highest criminal and civil courts in the provinces and have a trial and appeal division. Has jurisdiction in both criminal and civil matters, beyond the lower courts. Judge and jury unless the accused and the provincial Attorney General consent to trial by judge alone. By judge alone in provincial court or by judge and jury in Superior court. Appeals from the Superior Court are heard in the Superior Court, Appeal division. Three to five judges hear the case and the appeal is won or lost based on the majority decision of the judges.
Figure 7.5Court Procedure for Criminal Cases, p. 166
Federal Court of Canada – A court that hears cases involving the federal government and consists of a trial and appeal division. Also hears appeals from federally appointed boards, commissions and administrative tribunals. Supreme Court of Canada – highest appeals court in Canada, which also deals with constitutional questions referred to it by the Federal government. Consists of a chief justice (Beverly Mclachlin) and eight justices, all of whom are appointed by the federal government. Three come from Quebec, three from Ontario, two from the western provinces and one from the Atlantic Provinces. The court sits in Ottawa for three sessions a year: winter, spring and fall. Cases are heard by a panel of five, seven or nine judges, depending on the type of appeal.
Hears only appeals, from provincial courts of appeal and the Federal Court of Appeal. Grants leave, permission to appeal, for matters of national significance or when decisions conflict in the provincial appeals court. The federal government may ask the court to rule on questions relating to constitutional issues or other federal concerns. Other federal courts include the Tax Court of Canada, which deals with income tax matters and the Court Martial Appeals court, which hears appeals from courts in the armed forces.
There are two fundamental principles of Canada’s criminal justice system: 1. An accused person is innocent until proven guilty. 2. Guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Beyond a reasonable doubt is a standard of proof whereby a defendant’s guilt must be proven to the extent that a reasonable person would have no choice but to conclude that the defendant did indeed commit the offence.
The judge is the court official appointed to try cases in a court of law and to sentence convicted persons. Makes decisions on such things as admissibility of evidence and interpretation of the law. In a jury trial, the judge is the trier of law and the jury the trier of fact. The judge instructs the jury on points of law, the jury decides the verdict based on the judge’s instructions and the evidence or facts presented, and the judge sentences the person. In a non-jury trial, the judge does both. A Justice of the Peace is a court official who has less authority than a judge but can issue warrants and perform other judicial functions.
The Accused or defendant is the person charged with committing a criminal offence. Duty counsel refers to a lawyer on duty in a courtroom or police station to give free legal advice to persons just arrested or brought before the court. Defence counsel is the lawyer who defends an accused person on trial.
The crown attorney or prosecutor is the lawyer representing the government. They are responsible for bringing forward credible evidence of a crime. Evidence is information that tends to prove or disprove the elements of an offence.
Court Clerk – assists the judge by keeping a record of the trial exhibits, administering oaths and announcing the beginning or end of the court session. Court reporter – records word for word everything said during the trial. If required the reporter can produce a transcript or typed record of everything said in court. Court security officer – handles accused persons who are in custody and helps maintain security in the courtroom. Sheriff – responsible for the jury, including summoning, paying, secluding and guarding them. Bailiff – court official who assists the sheriff.
Witnesses give evidence, under oath or affirmation, of their knowledge of the circumstances surrounding a crime. They are compelled to appear in court by a subpoena, a court order requiring the witness to appear in court on a certain date to give evidence. Failure of a witness to appear can result in a contempt of court charge for obstructing the course of justice and disobeying the court’s authority. Committing perjury, knowingly making false statements in court while giving evidence, is a serious offence. The maximum penalty is 14 years in jail.
The jury is a group of 12 people who decide whether the accused is guilty or not guilty. They are chosen by the crown and defence from a pool of ordinary citizens. They listen to the trial, consider all the evidence and follow the judge’s instructions about the law. They withdraw to the jury room to deliberate, consider the evidence and decide guilt or innocence. Their decision must be unanimous!!
Comes from the French word “jurer”, which means to swear an oath. Eligible jurors are 18 years old, Canadian citizens, and a resident of the province for at least one year. Publicly elected politicians, lawyers, prison guards, police officers and probation officers cannot serve as jurors. People can be exempt from jury duty for health and religious reasons, financial hardship or if they have served on a jury in the past 2 years. If you wish to be excused from the jury you can apply to the sheriff.
Selected at random from electoral polling lists. A group of potential jurors is called a jury panel. The accused first comes before a judge and jury panel during the arraignment, the first stage of a criminal trial in which the court clerk reads the charge and the defendant enters a plea. If the plea is not guilty, the crown and defence will begin to select jurors from the panel under the supervision of the judge. The process involves six steps:
1. People’s names are randomly selected and read aloud to the court. 2. The person whose name has been chosen goes to the front of the court and faces the accused. 3. Both the Crown and the defence can object to a potential juror by challenging the individual. 4. A challenge for cause, the right of the Crown or defence to exclude someone from a jury for a particular reason, can be used if they feel that the potential juror has already formed an opinion, cannot physically perform their duties or has been convicted of a serious offence. Each side has unlimited challenges for cause. 5. After a juror is accepted as suitable and impartial, the Crown or defence can still reject the juror by using a preemptory challenge, the right of the Crown or defence to exclude someone from a jury without providing a reason. 20 challenges for serious cases, 12 if the accused can be sentenced to more than five years and 4 if the sentence is less than five years. 6. Selection process is complete and the jurors take the juror’s oath.