R. v. Jordan, [2016] 1 SCR 631

Barrett Richard Jordan was charged in December 2008 for his role in a dial-a-dope operation, and his trial ended with a conviction in February 2013. The Supreme Court used Mr. Jordan’s case as an opportunity to reformulate the test for trial within a reasonable time, overturning the conviction and entering a judicial stay of proceedings pursuant to s. 11(b) of the Charter.

The majority faulted the longstanding Morin approach of “after-the-fact rationalization of delay” as “contributing to a culture of delay and complacency towards it.” To correct this systemic problem, the Court imposed a “ceiling beyond which delay is presumptively unreasonable” — being eighteen months in a Provincial Court or 30 months in a Superior Court.

Unlike the Morin framework, which excluded the “inherent time requirements of the case” from the calculation of institutional delay, all institutional delay counts towards the Jordan ceilings. Defence delay, on the other hand, is still deducted for the purpose of the calculation.

The Jordan ceilings can be flexible in the sense that the reasonable time requirements of a given case are proportionate to the complexity of the case. This means that a delay of more than 30 months might be justifiable in an exceptionally complex Superior Court matter such as a murder conspiracy; whereas a delay of less than eighteen months might be unjustifiable in a simple Provincial Court matter such as a traffic ticket. Nevertheless, the party seeking flexibility in the presumptive ceiling bears the onus of proving “exceptional circumstances” to justify a modified timeline.

Overall, the Jordan framework is aimed at reducing delay by forcing the Crown to make timely decisions as to the best use of justice system resources, while streamlining the process for delay applications to render just and predictable results.

Decided by the Supreme Court of Canada on July 8, 2016.
Click here for the full text of the decision.

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Filed under Section 11: Legal Rights, Section 11(b): Trial Within Reasonable Time

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