Barrie, Ontario – Local court data suggests a concerning increase in violent crimes and significant delays in case processing within the justice system. An analysis by InnisfilToday of court information from the Ministry of the Attorney General reveals a steady rise in violent crimes in the Barrie area, with 1,922 cases reported in 2012 and a staggering 2,464 cases in 2022.
It is important to note that not all of these cases are strictly Barrie crimes, as the local courthouse also handles cases from the wider region. Simcoe County has experienced a moderate increase in violent crime rates, averaging about 3.8 occurrences per 1,000 people between 2014 and 2018, and rising to between four and 4.3 occurrences from 2019 to 2022.
During this same period, the population of Barrie has also grown significantly, from 136,063 residents in 2011 to 147,829 residents in 2022. However, court data also reveal that cases involving violent crime are taking longer to reach trial. In 2012, the average number of days to disposition was 143, compared to 179 in 2022. The average number of days for all cases rose from 118 in 2012 to 144 in 2022.
Moreover, the data indicates a decline in the number of cases proceeding to trial, falling from 7.5 percent in 2012 to 4.5 percent in 2022. Meanwhile, the rates for all trials decreased from 4.1 percent in 2012 to 2.5 percent in 2022. When innisfilToday reached out to several local lawyers for their perspectives on these court data trends, only one responded.
Mitch Eisen, a criminal lawyer from Cugelman & Eisen on Collier Street in downtown Barrie, offered insights into the possible factors behind these trends. Eisen suggested that the proliferation of cameras in society, including cellphones, front door cameras, business cameras, and body-worn cameras for officers, may contribute to the rise in reported crimes. The prevalence of such evidence often leads to the resolution of cases without going to trial.
Eisen also identified the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in sex assault legislation as contributors to case delays. He explained that these legislative changes require pre-trial motions for obtaining third-party records, including texts and social media conversations exchanged between the complainant and the accused. This additional workload of pre-trial motions, combined with limited court time, has further bogged down the system.
To address these delays, the courts have adopted a method known as “stacking cases,” where multiple trials are scheduled on the same day, knowingly recognizing that not all cases will be reached. However, this approach can be costly and time-consuming for both the defense and the Crown attorneys involved.
The Ministry of the Attorney General did not respond to a request for comment on these concerning trends.
In conclusion, court data from the Ministry of the Attorney General reveals an increase in violent crimes in the Barrie area and significant delays in case processing. While factors such as the proliferation of cameras and legislative changes in sex assault cases may contribute to these trends, the COVID-19 pandemic has also played a role. These delays have led to fewer cases going to trial and an increase in the average number of days required for case resolution. The impact of these delays is felt by all parties involved, with frustrations mounting due to the lingering uncertainty and costs associated with prolonged legal proceedings.