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Waits at Red Deer courts concerning: Organization handling child sexual violence cases
Published Wednesday, March 22, 2017 5:32PM MDT
A central Alberta organization say the long waits, and backlog of cases at the Red Deer courthouse is having a negative impact on children.
The Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre (CASASC) say the province’s funding of a new courthouse is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done now to prioritize victims of sexual violence.
“When we have a child that's spending their entire childhood in court, or court-related issues, that's completely unacceptable,” said Sexual Assault Counsellor Charity Hamm.
Hamm explained that the wait for a trial for a young sexual violence victim is growing. “When you have a child that has gone through therapy, did everything they were supposed to, and three years down the road have to go back to court, and then they're traumatized all over again.”
According to Hamm, children in central Alberta are waiting an average of three years, some up to five, to finish court proceedings.
“They have been through the most horrific crime that anybody can imagine, and then when our justice system, that is meant to protect us, is further victimizing them, that’s unacceptable.”
In 2016, CASASC had 124 new children, who had become victims of sexual violence, seek their services. That’s on average more than 10 victims between the ages of four and 17-years-old per month in central Alberta. While that’s a statistic staff say they’d like to see change, one of their biggest problems remains the courthouse.
Hamm says the province’s plans for a new $97 million Justice Centre in Red Deer is great news, but she’s concerned about the workload justice employees are facing now and how it’s impacting young victims.
She explained Crown Prosecutors, RCMP and other key players in cases like this are doing the best they can with limited resources. “We need more Crown Prosecutors, we need more judges, and we need to make these children a priority.”
Hamm says expediting the court process for children will help the healing process, so young victims can go on just being kids.
She added the addition of a Child Advocacy Centre, which is expected to be up and running sometime next year, will be another big help for victims.
CTV reached out to the Justice Minister’s Office to find out if there are plans to add more staff such as judges to the courthouse.
Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley sent us an email statement that says, “At this time, Red Deer currently has a full complement of Crown Prosecutors…I have appointed 12 judges to the Provincial Court,” Ganley said, adding: “We are committed to supporting survivors of sexual violence… that includes ensuring court cases are heard within a reasonable amount of time.”