FEB 4 , 2013
WDW210 Lecture 5
Introduction to the Criminal Court System and Pre-trial Decision Making
Canadian Criminal Courts
- Thirteen provincial/territorial courts and one federal court
- Permanent courts (and court buildings) exist in large urban areas
- Circuit courts exist in small, rural communities.
o Schedule court dates as per need
- At the provincial level there is a major difference between courts of “limited”
jurisdiction and courts of “general” jurisdiction.
Courts of Limited Jurisdiction (Lower Courts)
- Deal with most minor criminal matters (summary offences).
- Conduct bail hearings/remand court
- Some specialized courts (e.g., motor vehicle violations) in major urban centres.
- A single magistrate (judges, justice of the peace, etc.) makes all the decisions.
o No jury trial
- These magistrates provide law enforcement agents with search warrants,
subpoenas, summonses and remand warrants.
Courts of General Jurisdiction (Higher Courts)
- Deal with the most serious criminal offences (indictable offences)
- Trial by judge (sitting alone) or by judge and jury.
o Judge alone or judge and jury
- Specialized courts have also appeared within courts of general jurisdiction
(including special drug courts or courts dealing with family violence).
o Special court for street crimes
- Occurs when the defense or crown is not happy with the outcome of the
- Appeal courts appear at both the provincial and federal level.
- In appeal courts, a number of judges hear and decide on cases where the convicted
individual or the Crown prosecutor is appealing a decision made by the lower
- The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest appeal court in the nation.
- The Supreme court of Canada only hears 100-140 cases per year. Cases are “hand-
picked” by judicial sub-committees because they involve issues of general
The Appeal Process
- Both the defendant and the Prosecution have the right to appeal.
- The convicted person can appeal the conviction, the sentence or being found
mentally unfit to stand trial (NCR)
- The accused may appeal if it involves a point of law or a question of fact. FEB 4 , 2013
• the evidence was not obtained correctly, the substantial and procedural law
was not followed correctly
- The Prosecution may appeal an acquittal or a sentence on issues involving a point of
law – but not on questions of fact.
- The appeal court can order a new trial, change the sentence or even acquit an
- Very few summary offence convictions are ever heard by the Supreme Court of
Canadian Court System
“Higher” Provincial Trial
“Lower” Provincial Trial Courts
Criminal Trial Procedures
- Pre-trial decision-making (arrest procedures, the bail decision, pre-trial release
- Prosecutor Screening (e.g., decisions to proceed or dismiss charges);
- The Plea (in the lower courts, approximately 90% of all accused plead guilty at their
first court appearance);
o Can occur at anytime of the trial
- The Preliminary Hearing;
o The crime must provide a review of the hearing to see if they have enough
evidence to bring to case to trial (disclosure of the evidence used against
- The Criminal Trial (the opening statement, the presentation of evidence, closing
statements, the charge to the jury, the verdict, the sentencing hearing, the sentence);
- The Appeals Process;