The federal government says more appointments will be made to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench “in due course.”
The response to an Advocate query, an email from Justice Canada, comes a day after charges were stayed in a home invasion case when a Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench justice ruled that the accused had been denied due process because it took 27 months for the case to get to trial.
On Tuesday morning, Clarissa Lamb, spokesperson for Justice Minister Peter McKay, said the government has made more than 600 judicial appointments since 2006.
“In Economic Action Plan 2014, our government committed to the creation of two federally appointed judicial positions in Alberta,” she wrote in an email.
“Appointments will be made in due course,” Lamb said in another email later Tuesday.
“These additional positions will reduce delays to ensure that cases are heard in a timely matter and that serious charges are not dropped because of hearing delays.”
Alberta Justice said on Monday the province needs 12 more Queen’s Bench justices to have the same number per capita as B.C.
Justice Canada has appointed six Alberta Queen’s Bench justices in 2014, according to its website. Two of those appointments were replacements for justices who had been appointed to the Alberta Court of Appeal and one was for a justice who had died. The other three appointments were replacements for justices who had chosen to become supernumerary or part-time judges. While three justices went part time, three new justices were appointed to full-time positions.
Justice John Little replaced Justice Colleen Kelly, who chose to become a supernumerary judge in May. That Queen’s Bench position was based in Calgary, but was transferred to Red Deer on May 12, 2014, giving the Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench its third justice.
According to Alberta Justice, the province has the fewest Queen’s Bench justices per capita in the country with about one justice per 61,925 people.
“In order for Alberta to be on par with the next lowest jurisdiction — B.C. — the federal government would have to appoint an additional 12 judges,” read a statement from Josh Stewart, press secretary for Alberta Justice Minster Jonathan Denis.
Home invasion charges against three individuals were stayed Monday in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench by Justice Monica Bast. Originally arrested in May 2012, it took 27-and-a-half months for their trial to start. When it did, defence counsel made an application for a stay of proceedings because of the length of time it had taken. That motion was granted.
Outside of court, defence counsel said the delay was because of a lack of justices.
The matter had been set for trial in October 2013. However, it was double-booked with another trial and the home invasion case needed to find a new day.
A stay of proceedings means the accused are no longer being prosecuted. The Crown has a year to file an appeal to get the charges brought back.
Home invasion charges can result in up to a 10-year sentence.