Barrie, Ontario – Local court data suggests a surge in violent crimes in the Barrie area, accompanied by considerable delays in case processing through the justice system. The court information collected by BarrieToday from annual statistics published by the Ministry of the Attorney General reveals a steady increase in violent crimes over the past several years. In 2012, there were 1,922 cases, compared to 2,464 cases in 2022. However, it’s important to note that not all of these crimes are strictly Barrie-related, as the local courthouse handles cases from the wider region as well.
Simcoe County, where Barrie is located, has experienced a moderate rise in violent crime rates. Data between 2014 and 2018 show approximately 3.8 occurrences per 1,000 people, increasing to between four and 4.3 occurrences from 2019 to 2022. These numbers should be considered in light of the population growth of the City of Barrie, which increased from 136,063 residents in 2011 to 147,829 residents in 2022.
The court data also indicate that cases involving violent crimes are taking longer to reach trial. In 2012, the average number of days to disposition was 143, which rose to 179 in 2022. Additionally, the average number of days for all cases increased from 118 in 2012 to 144 in 2022. Furthermore, the percentage of cases that went to trial dropped from 7.5% in 2012 to 4.5% in 2022, with the overall trial rates falling from 4.1% to 2.5% during the same period.
BarrieToday attempted to gather perspectives from local lawyers regarding the court data, but only one responded. Mitch Eisen, a criminal lawyer at Cugelman & Eisen, offered his insights into the trends. Eisen, who has practiced law for 33 years, suggested that the proliferation of cameras in society might contribute to the rise in crime rates. He pointed out that cameras, including cellphone cameras, front door surveillance, business cameras, and body-worn cameras on police officers, provide strong evidence that can either prove or disprove guilt. As a result, more cases could be resolved without going to trial.
Eisen also attributed the increase in the average number of days for case resolution or trial to the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the complications that arise from new sex assault legislation. He mentioned that these laws require counsel to bring pre-trial motions related to third-party records, including texts and social media exchanges between the complainant and the accused. The necessity for these motions has led to more delays in court proceedings.
To address these delays, the courts have adopted a method called “stacking cases,” wherein multiple trials are scheduled for the same day with the understanding that not all will be reached. Eisen acknowledged the frustrations this system poses, as it requires defense attorneys to prepare for the possibility of their case proceeding, incurring costs for both the client and the Crown attorneys.
In summary, Barrie, Ontario, has seen a rise in violent crimes in recent years, with data indicating delays in case processing through the justice system. Factors contributing to these delays include the proliferation of cameras and new sex assault legislation requiring additional pre-trial motions. As a result, the percentage of cases going to trial has decreased, and the average number of days for case resolution or trial has increased. The implementation of “stacking cases” has been introduced as a potential solution to manage the delays.