A move by Alberta Justice to accommodate beefed-up security at the G-8 summit by adjourning some cases in the month of June will just add more strain to the court system, says the head of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association.
"I would have hoped that in planning this summit they would not have to further burden a court system that's already under stress," said Ravi Prithipaul.
In Edmonton, criminal courts will be silent from June 20 to 28 so police officers and court and prisoner services can be used to strengthen security at the Kananaskis summit, June 26 to 28. Criminal trials and preliminary hearings also won't be held in most Alberta communities, including Calgary, from June 17 to July 2.
Prithipaul said criminal lawyers, including those at his firm of Gunn Prithipaul Nelson and Strong, have received notices from the Crown prosecutor's office asking that cases scheduled during those dates be moved up.
Dates for many of the June cases were likely chosen between December and now, said Prithipaul. Further delay, he said, could compromise an accused's right to a fair trial.
"Memories fade, information becomes more difficult to locate," he said, adding accused people also have to live under restrictive conditions of bail or remain in lockup.
The province should have used additional resources to prevent this from happening, Prithipaul said.
"A number of organizations, including ours, have been asking for more appointments (of judges)," he said.
But Alberta Justice spokesman Bart Johnson said no cases have to be rescheduled. Criminal cases that require police witnesses or prisoner services have not been booked for those times, he said.
"We don't feel it's unreasonable considering the importance of insuring the safety of Albertans and summit participants, and protecting the parks and our infrastructure.
"We're talking about a week in Edmonton and two weeks elsewhere. We're not shutting down the courts," said Johnson.
"Only the criminal cases will be scheduled outside that time." Civil matters will still go ahead.
"There should be limited inconvenience," Johnson said. "Docket courts will continue to operate, so let's say there are mass arrests at the G-8, those people arrested will have access to immediate first appearances. Docket court will continue and there are plans to expand it if necessary."
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