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Supreme Court decision driving up police OT costs

Officers being called to court during their vacation to avoid criminal cases being dismissed
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A recent Supreme Court of Canada decision is leading to a spike in overtime costs at Greater Sudbury Police, as the system scrambles to ensure no cases are thrown out because they are taking too long. (File photo.)

A recent Supreme Court of Canada decision is expected to lead to a spike in overtime costs at Greater Sudbury Police, as the system scrambles to ensure no cases are thrown out because they are taking too long.

Staff Sgt. Terry Rumford told members of the police services board Wednesday that more than $160,000 in overtime costs were incurred in 2016. But, because the R vs Jordan decision requires officers to testify more frequently when they're not on shift or on holidays, the police service expects overtime costs in 2017 to be even higher. 

That ruling put a strict cap on how long a criminal case can take to come to court. Between the time the charge is laid and the start of the trial must happen within 18 months in the Ontario Court of Justice.

One way of shortening the process is by ensuring police officers are available for court dates to avoid scheduling delays.

“That means officers are being called in during their holidays,” Rumford said, at a considerable overtime cost to the department.

But it beats the alternative, he said, citing a case in Toronto where a criminal charge was dismissed because a police officer was on a prepaid Florida vacation and didn't testify in court. That pushed the trial over the time limit. 

In Sudbury last year, nine officers were called in to attend court on their vacation, driving up overtime costs. They will likely be higher this year, he added.

Rumford said so far, no cases in Sudbury have been dismissed because of the Supreme Court decision. But delays several local cases are causing concern.

"There are a few that have been brought to my attention -- whether they are in jeopardy or not remains to be seen," he said.

"We can say a case is in jeopardy, then all of a sudden the accused pleads guilty and it's no longer in jeopardy. But we have identified a number of cases, in consultation with the Crown attorney's office."

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly linked the 2016 overtime costs to the Supreme Court decision. That has been corrected.



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