Danielle In QP, November 5: Justice System

Ms Smith: Mr. Speaker, I see the Premier didn’t like the first three questions; maybe she’ll take the next three.

We received calls all weekend about the case of a young Airdrie girl who was repeatedly abused and then denied her day in court due to the delays in getting the accused to trial. The family was told it was because of a shortage of Crown prosecutors. D’Arcy Depoe, president of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association, confirmed that prosecutors are overloaded, yet just a few hours after the story broke, the Justice department was blaming it all on sickness of witnesses, last-minute evidence, and the weather. To the Premier: what’s the truth here?

Ms Redford: Mr. Speaker, when this issue was raised in the House last Thursday, we said that we took this matter very seriously. We have asked our ADM of prosecutions to look into this. It is important that we know what the circumstances are, and we’re not going to determine the circumstances by having people quoted in the newspaper and speculating. We will ensure that the facts are clear, we will ensure that all information is available, and we will ensure that our justice system continues to work.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Ms Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately, the Premier’s and the department’s claims just don’t ring true, and we have heard this all before. In 2009 the court dismissed a rape case involving a 15-year-old girl and two assailants because of delays that the court said were “almost entirely attributable to the Crown. It is in large part unexplained and unjustified.” Is the Premier still going to say that there is no shortage of Crown prosecutors?

Ms Redford: Mr. Speaker, we have a strong justice system; we have a strong prosecutions department. We are not going to ge tinto a very constructive discussion if every single day in this House we have politicians who are selectively quoting transcripts with respect to court proceedings. Our justice system is independent from the executive branch of government. We must ensure that it stays that way, and that’s why this work is being done.

Ms Smith: Mr. Speaker, now that we’ve had two cases, looking at these two cases, which are almost identical, it’s quite clear that we won’t get to the bottom of this by simply asking the Justice department to investigate itself. Will the Premier immediately call one of the other provinces and ask for a member of their justice department to come in and investigate and make recommendations to ensure this really doesn’t happen again?

Ms Redford: Mr. Speaker, I’m sorry, but I will take umbrage with the fact that the Leader of the Official Opposition has any particular legal training that allows her to characterize any circumstances in the justice system of being similar or not. That is\ why the Department of Justice is doing this work. I have full confidence in our prosecutors in our Department of Justice, and that is where the work needs to be done.