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Brampton judge rips into court staff

|Written By Kirsten McMahon

The administration of justice is in jeopardy because of incompetent court staff and other serious problems, including outdated recording equipment, within the Peel court system, says a Brampton judge.Because or this situation, trials are being adjourned, delayed, or repeated, Superior Court Justice Ron Thomas charged late last month before starting a hearing into problems at the A. Grenville & William Davis Courthouse.

"There's a serious cancer in this criminal justice system involving the incompetence of staff within this building who are responsible for transcripts from recordings in the courtroom," he said, during a hearing that is dealing with concerns about some recent court cases.

Tapes containing verbal evidence have been erased or lost, say court reporters, monitors, and supervisors testifying at the hearing. One court monitor testified she knew of four incidents in which technical difficulties have caused problems, including missing police testimony.

The acting supervisor of court reporters in the Brampton courthouse testified that the 54 court reporters and monitors on staff are overworked and due dates to have tapes transcribed are not being met.

David Acri, president of the Peel Law Association, says he thinks this is a situation that has become newsworthy and isn't necessarily representative of what's happening in Brampton.

"Ultimately, from anything I've heard, the vast majority of things proceed the way they're supposed to, although the deadlines and the pressures on reporters become greater all the time," he says.

Acri says the technology being used at the Brampton courthouse, as well as in the Peel Small Claims Court where he sits as a deputy judge, is outdated.

Vincent Houvardas, president of the Peel Criminal Lawyers' Association, agrees.

"It's pretty obvious that the systems seem to be a little bit outdated if they're using tape as opposed to digital recording," he says.

Brendan Crawley, spokesman for the Ministry of the Attorney General, says the tape-management procedures and processes in Brampton have recently been improved to address local concerns with regard to care, custody, and control of the recordings.

"We've also implemented a transcript order tracking system in Brampton to ensure that orders are processed in a timely matter and management continually monitors transcript production and adjusts staff schedules as needed to ensure that monitors and reporters have adequate time to prepare transcripts," he says.

Crawley says the ministry will be piloting an advanced digital recording system starting later this year as well as conducting province-wide training sessions.

"In addition to ongoing training programs, the ministry will be providing a major refresher training program for all 2,000 court staff including court monitors and reporters," he says.

Acri says there is some frustration going around about a lack of resources at one of Ontario's largest courthouses.

"Peel is a massive community. It's a massively growing community. According to Justice S. Bruce Durno, who's our regional senior justice, we're something like third from the top of the list in terms of population, and something like third from the bottom of the list in terms of a judicial complement," he says.

"I know that in my capacity as part of the regional bench-and-bar committee as well as the Superior Court bench-and-bar committee, there's a lot of frustration that comes from basically operating at half staff."

Houvardas agrees and says these recent incidents highlight the funding problem in Peel.

"My take on it is that if the attorney general doesn't upgrade the systems they are risking appeals from wrongful convictions that may have stemmed from faulty recordings," he says.

Acri says it boils down to a claim for resources, and because Peel's courthouse is relatively new, it may not register on the ministry's radar.

The ministry is continuing with its courthouse construction and renovation projects that will provide for courthouse consolidation and replacement projects in Pembroke, Durham Region, and Waterloo; courthouse construction projects in Quinte, St. Thomas, and Thunder Bay; and continuing courthouse improvements in London, Cobourg, Cornwall, and Sarnia.

"I've written to the attorney general and said, 'Come on out to Brampton. Have a sit down with us and look around and see what we're doing to cope with what we have and what we need to serve this region," Acri says.

"It's really a matter of money and resources to avoid frustration, and if judges are becoming that irritated where they're hauling people in and tarring and feathering them, you have to think about the litigants and what their frustrations are."

The latest incident is just one of several that have plagued the Brampton courthouse in the past few years.

Justice Casey Hill delivered a sharp judgment in November 2005 in R. v. Sidhu, which found the courthouse had been using, since its opening in 2000, unskilled interpreters who were routinely failing the provincial accreditation test.

Casey called the situation "a critical threat to justice," which came to light during the trial of Avtar Sidhu, a Punjabi-speaking man who was convicted in June 2003 of several counts of assault causing bodily harm and sentenced to six months in jail.

More recently, a settlement agreement was reached in April that avoided a long, difficult, expensive, and potentially embarrassing public discipline hearing for a Brampton justice.

Justice Marvin Morten was accused of being "rude, insulting, and disrespectful toward his judicial colleagues" and "voicing disparaging and insulting opinions in open court".

Two complaints were brought forward to the Ontario Judicial Counsel in 2003 by senior justices Timothy Culver and Ian Cowan relating to alleged incidents occurring between April 2000 and May 2004.

The settlement meant Morten, 62, was allowed to keep his job but no longer sit at the courthouse on Hurontario Street.

  • Justin

    I feel the same any court incluing provincial i feel Brampton does not have the quality. I agree with the crown I had witness tons of cases where missing information is missing.

    Hopefully we come together of a fix with the government.

    the staff have clearly no understanding.

  • bills8091
    Maybe people need more court reporter training? It seems like all the technology we have this stuff shouldn't really be happening.
  • Jim
    all the above happens in trhe Sarnia Courthouse system...we need to band together...see Canadians For Family law and on Facebook...power in numbers will force change.
  • brampton clerk corruption

    I had a situation this year where a clerk refused to left us set a date for trial . Saying that we were wasting the courts time ,that people like us cause taxes to go up when you never win these cases.When I asked her if she is saying to me I do not have the right she got up and swore and walk away then her colleague came and told me that she does not care about my side she only cares her employee is upset stated I walked away and swore (though I never raised my voice or left the kiosk desk ) I contacted the manager and she was just defending them .The clerks declare their own law and find purger on their half to be okay .They do not
    I found many articles on the corruption in brampton courts ...the manager thought by saying some is not her office is a defence...their so small minded that they can not see that everyone can tell their corruption is like a diseases spread through their courts
    I feel sorry for people who live in brampton who have to live under this so call legal rule of terror
  • I agree

    I have read so much about the corruption in Brampton. Lawyers going down into the rcords room and removing 2/3 of an entire Continuing Record days before a Motion date. Some of them physically pull some of the Orders and change them and the Records Clerks allow them to do this. The corruption in the Brampton Courts is insurmountable. Just look at who the mayor has been for the past 300 years.
  • k
    I absolutely agree with simone. without saying much
    i know from first hand the clerks at the provincial court all need to be disciplined. They all need to take a course in mannerism. They are rude, loud and look at you assuming you know the Brampton By-Laws and how the system works. They are so loud that everyone else around them waiting in line knows what your there for. I feel sorry for the new comers. They come in lost and hope to get some direction...little do they know. This has to be stopped!!! Instead of them judging everyone who walks in they have to set aside their personal prejudice and deal with every individual case respectfully. If they can't put their prejudice aside find employment else where.
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