Justice on Target (JOT) takes a unique and bold approach to the challenging and complex issue of criminal court delay. It does so by engaging local leaders in courts and setting a four-year target to reduce by 30 percent both the number of days and the number of appearances needed to complete a criminal case.
In recognition of the strategy itself and the work currently underway to achieve its targets, JOT was awarded the gold prize in the Federal/Provincial/Territorial category of the prestigious IPAC/Deloitte Public Sector Leadership Award, described by IPAC chair and CEO Robert Taylor as an award conceived and developed “by public servants, for public servants.”
The JOT strategy was selected for the top honour from an impressive group of innovative leadership projects and initiatives such as Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation Windsor Gateway Initiative, British Columbia’s Applications for Climate Change, and BC Hydro’s Olympic Project.
Taylor said it took an independent jury of experts, including current and former provincial deputy ministers, past winners and the Secretary of the Cabinet, Shelly Jamieson, two days to screen the more than 90 submissions. Panelists focused on the “boldness, impact, collaboration and results of each submission.” But, he said, “what pushed Justice on Target over the top was the project’s significance to Canadians to improve public service.”
Attorney General Chris Bentley launched the strategy in June of 2008 and says, “today, exciting and innovative work is underway in every criminal court across Ontario to change the system from within.” And he points to progress. “For the first time in nearly two decades the average number of appearances needed to complete a criminal charge is consistently going down, not up.”
Paul Macmillan, national public sector leader for Deloitte Canada, says, “Justice on Target is an example of a model for other jurisdictions.” He says there are several reasons the strategy stands out, including its “challenge of scale,” noting the project is improving the effectiveness of the entire criminal justice system by monitoring local initiatives site by site, and sharing best practices and ideas with the greatest impact.
Macmillan credits the strong support from the Attorney General and the provincial government to address the longstanding issue from a new angle as one of the reasons it has been able to achieve positive results.
Ontario’s Deputy Attorney General Murray Segal, who has worked in the justice system for more than 30 years, says he’s never seen anything like it. “We have brought together people who normally sit on opposite sides of the bench – and opposite sides of the courtroom. We’ve brought constitutionally independent justice participants to the same table and have asked them to work together to find solutions.”
“This collaboration describes Justice on Target well,” says Justice Bruce Durno of the Superior Court of Justice, who is the external lead of the strategy. “The award is a tribute to the change taking place on the ground in local criminal courts across Ontario.”
The strategy’s director and ministry lead, Ken Anthony, agrees. “We are continually encouraged by the results in numbers we are realizing across the province. And perhaps more importantly, we are seeing positive changes in the way we work, day to day, in our courthouses.”
Attorney General Bentley adds, “Justice on Target is finding sustainable solutions to an issue that has continually challenged our criminal justice system. It is about working together to improve justice services for all Ontarians, whether they are victims, witnesses, accused, other participants or members of the community. After all, it is their justice system.”
At its core, Justice on Target is about a commitment to quality public service. Always striving to do better for the public with the resources at our disposal is something that everyone who works in Ontario’s courts shares.
Stephen Rhodes is the Associate Deputy Minister of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General. More information is available at: www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/jot/