Toronto Police Accountability Coalition


Pre-charge screening: voices in support


June 11 2017

Pre-charge screening: voices in support
The absence of pre-charge screening in Ontario has a disproportionately punishing impact on African Canadian individuals, families and communities. Due in important part to the pernicious and persistent violative practices of racial profiling, carding and generalized over-policing, far too many Black lives and families are unnecessarily disrupted and held hostage by dubious charges laid by police. In a significant number of instances, the crown later withdraws these charges after weeks and sometimes months of a Black accuseds life and family being paralyzed and damaged by having to find time and money to prepare a full answer and defence against charges that dont ultimately proceed. Racialized over-policing leads to racialized over-charging. Pre-charge screening by crowns is a welcome, necessary and overdue part of the solution to the anti-Black policing practice of laying charges in a manner that helps serve to perpetuate systemic racism in Ontarios criminal justice system.
Anthony Morgan, criminal lawyer
"Implementing the pre-screening of charges in Ontario does not take power away from police officers. Conversely, it is a step in the direction of using the mechanisms and actors in the criminal justice system to harmony to effect its ultimate goal; justice. Pre-screening charges avoids the procedural acrobatics that are currently present and promotes efficiency in the court processes."
Selwyn A. Pieters, criminal lawyer 
"I think that almost all criminal defence lawyers and almost all Assistant Crown Attorneys would be of the opinion that pre-charge screening by Assistant Crown Attorneys would make the criminal justice system more efficient and more fair.
Peter Rosenthal, criminal lawyer
Based on the information in the Chris Williams study, it seems obvious that adopting a precharge screening process in Ontario would significantly reduce the number of charges required to be processed in the Ontario courts

Given the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Regina vs Jordan on the right to trial within a reasonable time, and given the number of cases that have been stayed post Jordan for unreasonable delay, including murder cases, I would suggest that precharge screening by crown attorneys would help the courts process cases in a more efficient manner and help avoid cases being stayed for unreasonable delay.
Paul Copeland, criminal lawyer
The common practices of charging up and over-charging, with the primary goal of inducing guilty pleas, pervert the course of justice. Most accused do not have the knowledge, expertise or resources to challenge such practices which, as pointed out in this study, serve bureaucratic interests of police and Crown, not justice. These practices violate a long-cherished principle of restraint in the use of the criminal law  adding more or more serious charges for expedience alone is unjustifiable.
The study outlines very cogently and effectively the benefits of pre-charge screening, while identifying the many troubling aspects of post-charge screening, as it currently exists in Ontario. 
 Tammy Landau
Associate professor of Criminology, Ryerson University
Supporting the brief: Nigel Barriffe, Urban Alliance for Race Relations

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