According to recently released data by Statistics Canada on our adult criminal justice system, approximately 30% of charges laid by the police in 2006-2007 were either withdrawn by the Crown or dismissed or stayed by the courts.
Why is this happening? What role does race play? If a disproportionate number of these cases involve racialized individuals, then it would provide additional evidence of the scope of racial profiling. There is already some evidence that this is the case. In their 2008 series, Crime and Punishment, the Toronto Star uncovered data that reveals that racialized individuals are 53 percent more likely than Whites to be not convicted. No conviction is defined as (i) an acquittal; (ii) a withdrawal or stay of charges; and, (iii) a finding of guilt with a discharge on sentencing. See Rankin and Powell, "Is Justice System Blind to Colour" Toronto Star (21 July 2008).
One remedy is to have Crown Attorneys screen arrests before charges are laid. This is the current practice in British Columbia, Quebec and New Brunswick. See the discussion in McGoey, "The 'Good' Criminal Law Barrister: A Crown Perspective" (2004). In New Brunswick, only 16% of the cases were withdrawn or stayed as compared to 40% in Ontario where there is no pre-charge screening. While Ontario and other provinces have mandatory post-charge screening, the concern is the delay in review and timing of withdrawal.
Posted by Professor Tanovich