Adult Criminal Court Statistics, 2008/2009

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived information

Archived information is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact-us" to request a format other than those available.

by Jennifer Thomas

Characteristics of adult criminal court cases, 2008/2009
Five offences represent half of caseload
Accused persons often young and male
Case outcomes
Two–thirds of cases had a finding of guilt
Sentencing in adult criminal courts
Custody sentence frequently ordered in cases involving offences against the administration of justice
Most imprisonment terms are relatively short
Use of imprisonment varied considerably across the country
Probation likely for crimes against the person
Fine sentences have slightly decreased, but the amounts are getting higher
Case processing in adult criminal courts
Cases in adult criminal courts are starting to get shorter
What types of cases take longer to process?
Multiple-charge cases take longer to process than single-charge cases
Elapsed times vary by the type of offence
Trial cases take longer to complete than non-trial cases
"Collapsed cases" also have longer elapsed times
Bench warrants increase case elapsed time
Summary
Methodology
Primary unit of analysis
Most serious offence and decision rules
Coverage
Note concerning data revisions
Detailed data tables
Notes

In Canada, the Constitution provides the federal government the exclusive authority to legislate criminal laws while the provinces and territories are responsible for the administration of justice within their jurisdiction.

The majority of adult criminal cases that come into the justice system in Canada are dealt with in provincial or territorial level courts. All provinces and territories (with the exception of Nunavut1) have also established superior level courts, which deal with more serious offences. For example, superior level courts have absolute jurisdiction over homicide offences and are also used in trials involving a jury.2

There are two main themes discussed in the article. First, the characteristics of cases disposed of in adult criminal courts and their outcomes for 2008/2009 are presented. Second, recent trends in the number of cases disposed in adult criminal courts and the amount of time it takes to dispose of cases are discussed, along with the characteristics of lengthy cases. 

The analysis in this article is based on data collected from the Integrated Criminal Court Survey (ICCS) and the Adult Criminal Court Survey (ACCS). Data on federal statute charges are collected by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) in collaboration with provincial and territorial government departments responsible for the administration of adult criminal courts.

Characteristics of adult criminal court cases, 2008/2009 3

Five offences represent half of caseload

In 2008/2009, adult criminal courts in Canada disposed of 392,907 cases involving 1,161,018 charges (Table 1).

The most frequently occurring cases were for impaired driving (11%), theft (10%), common assault4 (9%), failure to comply with a court order (9%) and breach of probation (8%). Combined, these five offences accounted for almost half of all cases disposed of in adult criminal courts across the country.

Accused persons often young and male

Of all adult criminal court cases in 2008/2009, 77% involved a male accused, while 17% involved a female accused. In 6% of cases the sex was not reported. Less than 1% of cases disposed of in 2008/2009 involved a company. 

Offences for which males had the highest involvement included sexual assault (98%), other sexual offences (97%), being unlawfully at large (91%), weapons offences (91%) and break and enter (90%). The highest representation of females was found in cases of prostitution (31%), fraud (31%), and theft (30%).5

As is the case with police-reported crime data, younger adults are over-represented in court when compared to the age distribution of the adult population.6 In 2008/2009, 18- to 24-year-olds comprised 12% of the adult population,7 but accounted for 31% of all cases in adult criminal court.8 Similarly, persons 25 to 34 years of age accounted for 17% of the adult population and 28% of the total cases disposed in adult criminal court. (Table 2) The over-representation of persons between the ages of 18 and 34 is most prominent among homicide (71%), robbery (76%) and attempted murder (66%) cases. However, for some offence types the peak age occurs later. Offences where the accused was 35 years of age or older in the majority of cases included criminal harassment (59%), other sexual offences (59%), prostitution (59%), and sexual assault (57%).

Case outcomes

Two-thirds of cases had a finding of guilt

The accused was found guilty in two-thirds (66%) of cases disposed in adult criminal court in 2008/2009.9 This proportion has been stable over the last few years, however, it is slightly higher than in 2003/2004 (63%) (Table 3).

Three out of every 10 cases (29%) were resolved by being stayed, withdrawn or dismissed. Three percent of the cases resulted in the acquittal10 of the accused, and 1% of cases had other decisions

Overall, cases involving Criminal Code traffic offences resulted in the highest percentage of guilty decisions (80%) in 2008/2009, followed by administration of justice offences (73%) and crimes against property (67%).

Among the different crimes against the person, there were considerable differences in the percentage of cases resulting in a guilty finding, from 22% for attempted murder to 70% for other sexual offences (Chart 1).

Chart 1
Cases found guilty with a crime against the person as the most serious offence in the case, Canada, 2008/2009

Description

Chart 1 Cases found guilty with a crime against the person as the most serious offence in the case, Canada, 2008/2009

Note: Found guilty cases include absolute and conditional discharges. Coverage for Adult Criminal Court Survey data as at 2008/2009 is estimated at 95% of adult criminal court caseload.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Adult Criminal Court Survey.

Overall, the percentage of guilty cases was highest in New Brunswick (80%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (78%), and lowest in Ontario (60%), Manitoba (65%) and Alberta (65%) (Table 3).

There are several possible factors that influence variations among jurisdictions. First, the use of pre-court diversion programs and alternative measures affects the number and types of cases that proceed to court. Second, the use of stays and withdrawals11 will have an impact on the percentage of cases in which a finding of guilt is recorded. For example, 38% of cases were stayed or withdrawn in Ontario compared to 10% in Quebec and 16% in New Brunswick. Third, the use of pre-charge screening by the Crown, which occurs in New Brunswick, Quebec and British Columbia, may also affect the percentage of guilty findings through increased vetting of charges.

Sentencing in adult criminal courts

Text box 1
Guiding principles of sentencing

At sentencing, the court seeks to impose a sentence that reflects the principles of the sentencing process, as outlined by section 718 of the Criminal Code. In arriving at a sentence, the court weighs many factors, such as the extent of harm inflicted upon victims, the number and nature of previous convictions and the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence. In addition, the court must consider the principles of sentencing which include but are not limited to, factors relating to the protection of society, the rehabilitation of offenders and crime prevention. Furthermore, judges must respect related provisions such as prescribed mandatory minimum penalties for offences such as: murder; manslaughter; sexual assault with a weapon; making, distributing, possessing or accessing child pornography; impaired driving, and a number of weapons offences. 

In 2008/2009, probation was the most frequent sentence, imposed in 45% of all guilty cases. Custody was imposed in 34% of cases, a fine in 30%, a conditional sentence in 4%, and restitution in 3%12,13 (Table 4). These proportions have remained relatively stable in recent years.  

Custody sentence frequently ordered in cases involving offences against the administration of justice

In 2008/2009, almost 90,000 adult criminal court cases resulted in the accused receiving a sentence to custody. Upon conviction, cases where the accused was found guilty of being unlawfully at large were most likely to result in a sentence to custody (82%). While these are relatively low volume offences in court, they are considered serious (Table 4). 

The crimes against the person category had a lower proportion of guilty cases receiving a sentence to custody (32%) than did the crimes against property category (40%). Common assault represented a large proportion (38%) of guilty crimes against the person cases, but had a relatively low outcome of custody (15%), deflating the overall proportion of cases receiving custody. A larger proportion of the more serious cases in the category resulted in a custodial sentence. For example, cases in which the accused was guilty of attempted murder (81%), homicide14 (76%) and robbery (76%) were the most likely to receive a custodial order (Table 4).

There are several offences in the crimes against property category that frequently resulted in custody orders. For example, in about half of break and enter cases (57%) and possession of stolen property cases (49%), the guilty accused was ordered to serve a custodial sentence (Table 4). Persons committing these property offences tend to have longer criminal histories, which after the seriousness of the crime, is one of the most important factors considered by the court when determining the appropriate sentence.15

Most imprisonment terms are relatively short

Over half (55%) of all custodial sentences imposed in 2008/2009 were one month or less, while an additional one-third (31%) were for periods from greater than one month to up to six months.16,17 Sentences that were two years or longer were imposed in 4% of guilty cases with custody18 (Chart 2).

Chart 2
Guilty cases by length of custody sentence, Canada, 2008/2009

Description

Chart 2 Guilty cases by length of custody sentence, Canada, 2008/2009

Note: Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100. Excludes 4% of cases where the length of custody sentence was unknown (3,509 cases). Coverage for Adult Criminal Court Survey data as at 2008/2009 is estimated at 95% of adult criminal court caseload.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Adult Criminal Court Survey.

In 2008/2009, the median length of custodial sentences was 30 days (Table 5). Although the median length of custody orders for many types of offences varied little from the overall median, there are some notable exceptions. Although low in numbers, in cases where the accused was sentenced to custody for homicide and attempted murder, the median sentence lengths were much higher than for all other offences (5 years for homicide and about 4.5 years for attempted murder).19 By comparison, the shortest median custodial sentences were for cases where the accused was ordered custody for failure to appear (6 days), disturbing the peace (6 days), failure to comply with order (7 days), drug possession (7 days) and offences against the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA)20 (7 days).

Use of imprisonment varied considerably across the country

The proportion of cases sentenced to custody varies across the country. In 2008/2009, Prince Edward Island had the highest proportion of guilty cases (60%) resulting in a term of custody, while the lowest proportions were in New Brunswick (26%), Saskatchewan (26%), Nova Scotia (27%), and Manitoba (28%) (Chart 3).

Chart 3
Guilty cases sentenced to custody for the most serious offence in the case, by jurisdiction, 2008/2009

Description

Chart 3 Guilty cases sentenced to custody for the most serious offence in the case, by jurisdiction, 2008/2009

Note: Information from Quebec's municipal courts (which account for approximately one-quarter of federal statute charges in that province) are not yet collected. Coverage for Adult Criminal Court Survey data as at 2008/2009 is estimated at 95% of adult criminal court caseload.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Adult Criminal Court Survey.

This variation in the use of custody reflects the influence of several factors. First, the mix of offences being sentenced can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. If a particular jurisdiction has a higher than average percentage of the more serious crimes, it may also have a higher than average overall proportion of cases receiving a custodial sentence.

Second, courts in different parts of the country may administer the use of custody in different ways. In Prince Edward Island, for example, offenders are frequently sent to prison for their first impaired driving offence.21 Since impaired driving accounts for 28% of guilty cases in the province, the overall proportion of cases sentenced to prison in Prince Edward Island will be higher than the national average. Of all impaired driving cases in which the accused was found guilty in that province, 90% resulted in sentence to custody. This is by far the highest in Canada followed by Newfoundland and Labrador at 20%.

Probation likely for crimes against the person

In 2008/2009, sentences for crimes against the person were most likely to include a term of probation (Table 4). Three-quarters (75%) of guilty cases in this category received probation, compared to 57% of offenders guilty of a crime against property. A person who is found guilty can receive a term of custody along with a probation order. Of the almost 38,000 crimes against the person cases that received probation in 2008/2009, 28% were also sentenced to a term of custody.

In 2008/2009, the most common probation length was greater than six months to one year (51% of guilty cases with probation).22 About one-third (31%) of cases had lengths of greater than one year to two years in length. (The statutory limit on a term of probation is three years.) The median length of probation orders (about a year) has been stable since the beginning of collection of adult criminal court data in 1994/1995.

Fine sentences have slightly decreased, but the amounts are getting higher

Since 2000/2001, the imposition of fine sentences has been decreasing. In 2008/2009, 30% of guilty cases resulted in a fine, down from 38% in 2000/2001.23 However, the median amount of fine, which was steady at $500 from 2000/2001 to 2006/2007, increased to $600 in 2007/2008 and 2008/2009. (Table 6)

One factor that may have contributed to changes in the imposition of fines is Bill C-41 [CCC s. 734(2)]. This legislation, which came into force September 1996, amended the Criminal Code to direct judges to impose fines only after ascertaining whether the offender has the ability to pay. Over the longer term, this amendment may have encouraged greater use of probation in lieu of fines for offenders that would otherwise be at risk of incarceration due to default of fine payment.

In 2008/2009, fines were frequently imposed in cases where the accused was found guilty of impaired driving (87%), a residual federal statute such as the Income Tax Act and Excise Act (53%), and drug possession (52%) (Table 4).

Case processing in adult criminal courts

Following a 4-year downward trend in the number of cases disposed of in the 10 reporting jurisdictions beginning in 2003/2004, the number of cases disposed increased by 3% in 2007/2008 and then remained relatively stable the following year (Table 7), (Chart 4).

Chart 4
Trend in total completed adult criminal court cases, 10 jurisdictions, 2000/2001 to 2008/2009

Description

Chart 4 Trend in total completed adult criminal court cases, 10 jurisdictions, 2000/2001 to 2008/2009

Note: This chart does not include data from Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Coverage for Adult Criminal Court Survey data for trend analysis from 2000/2001 to 2008/2009 (ten jurisdictions) is estimated at 90% of adult criminal court caseload.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Adult Criminal Court Survey.

Even during the period of declining numbers of cases, the number of charges being processed by the courts increased annually, with a 22% increase between 2000/2001 and 2008/2009. As a result, the average number of charges per case grew from 2.5 charges per case in 2000/2001 to 2.9 in 2008/2009.

Cases in adult criminal courts are starting to get shorter

The amount of time required to dispose of a case in adult criminal courts declined recently. In 2000/2001, the median elapsed time for a case to reach completion in the 10 reporting jurisdictions was 101 days, and in 2004/2005, it peaked at 128 days (Table 8). By 2008/2009, the median fell slightly to 124 days24 (Chart 5).

Chart 5
Trend in median elapsed time to case completion in adult criminal courts, 10 jurisdictions, 2000/2001 to 2008/2009

Description

Chart 5 Trend in median elapsed time to case completion in adult criminal courts, 10 jurisdictions, 2000/2001 to 2008/2009

Notes: This chart does not include data from Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Coverage for Adult Criminal Court Survey data for trend analysis from 2000/2001 to 2008/2009 (ten jurisdictions) is estimated at 90% of adult criminal court caseload.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Adult Criminal Court Survey.

Text box 2
Timely court processing

An accused's right to be brought to trial in a timely manner is a fundamental principle within the Canadian criminal justice system, which was reaffirmed with the 1990 Supreme Court decision in R. v. Askov.25

Preparations for each case commence in the court registry with the scheduling of the first court appearance, and continue with further co-ordination of judicial resources throughout the criminal court process. There are a variety of factors, many of which are not under the direct control of the courts, which affect both case management and processing. Such factors include: the volume of cases being processed by a court; the complexity of cases; the types of offences being prosecuted; issues related to the co-ordination and availability of various participants within the criminal justice process; lawyers' decisions on the most appropriate course of action for their clients; and accused failing to appear in court.

What types of cases take longer to process? 26

Cases with lengthier elapsed times often possess certain characteristics. The following analysis describes a few of them.

Multiple-charge cases take longer to process than single-charge cases

In 2008/2009, more time was required to process cases with multiple charges than those with one charge. The median elapsed time for multiple-charge cases was 152 days versus 89 days for single-charge cases (Chart 6). Furthermore, the median elapsed time to case completion increased with the number of charges in the case. In cases with 2 charges, the median time to case completion was 127 days, while it was 149 days for 3-charge cases and 161 days for 4-charge cases. For cases that had 5 or more charges, the median elapsed time was 191 days.

Elapsed times vary by the type of offence 27

Some offences take longer to resolve than others. In 2008/2009, of all types of offences, homicide cases took the longest to reach completion, with a median of 345 days. Similarly, cases that involved sexual assault (304 days), other sexual offences such as sexual interference and sexual exploitation (280 days), attempted murder (274 days) and drug trafficking (223 days), took longer to resolve (Table 9).

In contrast, four of the five most common offences for which accused persons appeared in court (theft, failure to comply with a court order, being unlawfully at large, and breach of probation) were among the shortest cases to resolve in court. The shortest median elapsed times were for offences of being unlawfully at large (25 days), breach of probation (60 days) offences under the YCJA28 (63 days), disturbing the peace (78 days), theft (78 days) and failure to comply with a court order (81 days).

Trial cases take longer to complete than non-trial cases

By their very nature, trial cases are more time and resource-intensive, often requiring more appearances to present evidence, hear the testimony of witnesses, and review victim impact statements. In 2008/2009, the median elapsed time for trial cases was 255 days to complete versus 113 days for non-trial cases.29 The fact that the majority of cases (91%) are completed in court without proceeding to trial mitigates the impact of trial cases on overall elapsed times (Chart 6).

Non-trial cases where the accused pleaded guilty had the shortest median elapsed time (97 days). The accused pleaded guilty in 59% of all cases. 

Of the cases that went to trial in 2008/2009, about 6 out of 10 (61%) were found guilty and the remainder were acquitted. The median elapsed time for cases resulting in an acquittal was about 1.4 months longer than trial cases with a guilty finding (280 days versus 239 days). However, acquittals only account for 3% of total cases. 

"Collapsed cases" also have longer elapsed times

Cases that proceed without a trial and result in a finding other than guilt or acquittal are often referred to as "collapsed cases" in that there may be insufficient evidence to proceed with the charges against the accused or evidence brought forth prior to trial suggests a probable finding of non-guilt.30 Collapsed cases include cases that were withdrawn, dismissed, discharged or stayed.

In 2008/2009, cases that were withdrawn, dismissed or discharged had a median elapsed time of 149 days. For cases that resulted in a stay, the median was 135 days (Chart 6).

Bench warrants increase case elapsed time

Bench warrants are arrest warrants that are usually issued when an individual fails to attend court, creating a situation where the court is unable to proceed with the case. Because it can often take a considerable amount of time to find and re-apprehend the accused, such cases can experience extensive processing delays.

In 2008/2009, 13% of completed cases had a bench warrant issued against the accused at some point during the court process. Cases with a bench warrant had a median processing time of 238 days, twice as long as cases without a bench warrant (108 days) (Chart 6).

Chart 6
Median elapsed time to case completion, various case characteristics, adult criminal courts, Canada, 2008/2009

Description

Chart 6 Median elapsed time to case completion, various case characteristics, adult criminal courts, Canada, 2008/2009

Note: Information from Quebec's municipal courts (which account for approximately one-quarter of federal statute charges in that province) are not yet collected. Coverage for Adult Criminal Court Survey data as at 2008/2009 is estimated at 95% of adult criminal court caseload.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Adult Criminal Court Survey.

Text box 3
Identifying factors that lead to delays in court process

The characteristics presented in this article describe some factors that are associated with lengthier cases heard in adult criminal courts,31 but they do not explain unreasonable delays in case processing due to system inefficiencies. Recently, justice officials across the country have been studying factors that potentially lead to delays in various stages of the court process and have begun implementing action plans to introduce efficiencies and reduce unreasonable delays while not compromising the quality of justice being delivered.32

Through research and functional initiatives in Canada and other countries (such as Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, and other European countries), a number of reforms have been identified that have the capacity to enhance the efficiency of the criminal justice process. Among others, the following have been identified as possible areas where efficiencies or improvements could be created in the court process: automating and monitoring case scheduling and management; early involvement of the Crown in screening police-laid charges; encouraging diversion and early disposal of cases when appropriate; availability of legal aid; promoting early disclosure of evidence by the Crown; and establishment of problem-solving courts (i.e., specialized courts dealing with unique types of cases or accused such as mental illness courts, drug courts, family or domestic violence courts).33

Summary

In recent years the characteristics of cases heard in adult criminal courts in Canada and their outcomes have not changed greatly. Between 2003/2004 and 2006/2007, there had been a general trend towards lengthier, more complex cases. However, the amount of time it takes to dispose of a case in adult criminal courts declined recently. 

Courts do not have control over the types of cases that they hear, and some types of cases take longer to process than others. Cases involving more than one charge tend to take longer than single-charge cases, as do cases involving more serious offences such as homicide, and cases involving a trial or bench warrant. Lengthy cases do not necessarily imply delays in the court process. However, unreasonable delays can occur, and acknowledging this, provinces and territories have begun exploring and implementing efficiencies within the system.

Methodology

This article is based on case characteristics data from the Integrated Criminal Court Survey (ICCS) and Adult Criminal Court Survey (ACCS). Data on federal statute charges are collected by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) in collaboration with provincial and territorial government departments responsible for adult criminal courts. The surveys consist of a census of Criminal Code and other federal statute charges dealt with in adult criminal courts. The individuals involved are persons 18 years or older at the time of the offence, companies, as well as youth who have been transferred to adult criminal court.34

Primary unit of analysis

The Integrated Criminal Court Survey (ICCS) is a relatively new data collection strategy, designed to integrate the collection of adult and youth court data. Data contained in this report represent the adult criminal court portion of that survey.

The primary unit of analysis is the case. The concept of a case changed for the 2006/2007 release of data. The new definition attempts to more closely reflect court processing. It combines all charges against the same person having one or more key overlapping dates (date of offence, date of initiation, date of first appearance, date of decision, date of sentencing) into a single case. The former definition (used in releases prior to October 2007) combined all charges against the same person disposed of in court on the same day into a case. This tended to undercount the number of charges in a case, over-count the number of cases and underestimate the length of time required to process a case through court because not all charges are necessarily disposed of on the same day. All data, including years prior to 2006/2007 have been re-processed using the new case definition so that they are comparable.

The impact of this change is noticeable in the reduction of case counts as well as conviction rates for some jurisdictions, where certain administrative practices (e.g., use of stays, relays, withdrawals, transfers, etc.) may have resulted in multiple cases against an accused using the previous end-date definition.

Most serious offence and decision rules

When a case has more than one charge, it is necessary to decide which charge will be used to represent the case. In such multiple-charge cases, the "most serious decision" rule is applied. Decisions are ranked from the most to the least serious as follows: 1) guilty, 2) guilty of a lesser offence, 3) acquitted, 4) stay of proceeding, 5) withdrawn, dismissed and discharged 6) not criminally responsible 7) other, 8) transfer of court jurisdiction.

In cases where two or more offences have resulted in the same decision (e.g., guilty), the "most serious offence" rule is applied. All charges are ranked according to an offence seriousness scale, which is based on the average length of prison sentence imposed on guilty charges between 2002/2003 and 2006/2007. If two charges are tied according to this criterion, information about the sentence type (e.g., prison, probation, and fine) is considered. If a tie still exists, the magnitude of the sentence is considered.

Coverage

In 2008/2009, criminal courts in all provinces and territories reported provincial court data to the ICCS/ACCS. In addition, all jurisdictions with the exception of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan reported superior court data to the survey.

Some limitations on coverage of the surveys should be noted. Data from the Northwest Territories are not available for 1996/1997 and 2000/2001 to 2003/2004. Manitoba began reporting to the ICCS in 2005/2006. Information from Quebec's municipal courts (which account for approximately one-quarter of Criminal Code charges in that province) is not yet collected. The current coverage represents approximately 95% of the national adult criminal court caseload.

The absence of data from four superior court jurisdictions (noted above) may result in a slight underestimation of the severity of sentences imposed across Canada because some of the most serious cases, which are likely to result in the most severe sanctions, are processed in superior courts. There may also be slight underestimation of case elapsed times across Canada because more serious cases may require more appearances and take more time to complete.

Note concerning data revisions

Data for 2008/2009 currently do not account for cases that were pending at the end of the reference period and have no subsequent activity for a full year. The ICCS deems these cases as complete in the following reference period and these "updates" will be reported in the 2009/2010 release of data. 

Additionally, CCJS continues to make updates to the offence library used to classify offence data sent by the provinces and territories. These improvements have resulted in minor changes in the counts of charges and cases as well as the distributions by type of offence.

Data for 2006/2007 and all previous years presented in this article have been revised to account for these updates. For example, as a result of the updates, adult criminal court completed case counts in Canada for 2006/2007 increased by about 2% from previously reported data. Assuming consistent proportions of inactivity from year to year, it should be noted that 2008/2009 case counts are likely under-reported by a similar percentage due to the new update process in ICCS. The effect of these updates varies by jurisdiction (see text table 1).

Text table 1
Cases disposed in adult criminal courts, Canada, provinces and territories, 2006/2007–originally published and updated figures
Province and territory 2006/2007 Impact of updates
Originally published data Revised with updates
number of cases percent
Total 372,084 380,506 2.3
Newfoundland and Labrador 4,765 4,808 0.9
Prince Edward Island 1,332 1,424 6.9
Nova Scotia 11,685 11,745 0.5
New Brunswick 7,533 7,657 1.6
Quebec 66,819 68,041 1.8
Ontario 147,424 149,380 1.3
Manitoba 16,230 16,564 2.1
Saskatchewan 17,390 17,654 1.5
Alberta 51,144 54,658 6.9
British Columbia 44,289 44,906 1.4
Yukon 898 902 0.4
Northwest Territories 1,053 1,238 17.6
Nunavut 1,522 1,529 0.5
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Integrated Criminal Court Survey.

Detailed data tables

Table 1 Charges and cases in adult criminal court, Canada, 2008/2009

Table 2 Cases by age of accused, adult criminal court, Canada, 2008/2009

Table 3 Cases by decision, adult criminal court, Canada, 2008/2009

Table 4 Guilty cases by type of sentence, adult criminal court, Canada, 2008/2009

Table 5 Guilty cases by mean and median length of custody and probation sentence, adult criminal court, Canada, 2008/2009

Table 6 Guilty cases by mean and median fine amount, adult criminal courts, 10 jurisdictions, 2000/2001 and 2008/2009

Table 7 Completed cases in adult criminal court, 10 jurisdictions, 2000/2001 to 2008/2009

Table 8 Median elapsed time to case completion, 10 jurisdictions, 2000/2001 to 2008/2009

Table 9 Elapsed time in adult criminal courts by type of offence, Canada, 2008/2009

Notes

  1. Nunavut Court of Justice deals with both territorial and superior court matters.
  2. For information on the organization of courts in Canada, see the Department of Justice Canada website at http://canada.justice.gc.ca/eng/dept-min/pub/ccs-ajc/page3.html (accessed March 19, 2010).
  3. Data in this section cover provincial/territorial level courts for all 13 provinces and territories, as well as superior level courts for 8 jurisdictions. For more information on survey coverage, see the Coverage section under Methodology.
  4. There are three levels of assault in the Criminal Code. Common assault (Assault Level 1, s. 266) is the least serious of the three levels. A 'common' assault has been committed when an individual intentionally applies force or threatens to apply force to another person, without that person's consent. Major assault is an offence category that includes the higher levels of assault in the Criminal Code: assault with a weapon (Assault Level II, s. 267), aggravated assault (Assault Level III, s. 268), and other assaults (e.g. assaulting a police officer, and unlawfully causing bodily harm).
  5. Cases where the sex of the accused was unknown have been removed.
  6. Age represents the offender's age at the time that the offence was alleged to have been committed.
  7. Population estimates as of July 1, 2008 for adults in Canada (Source: Statistics Canada, Demography Division).
  8. Excludes cases where age of the accused was unknown and cases against companies.
  9. Includes absolute and conditional discharges. After a guilty decision is rendered, the court may discharge the accused absolutely or on conditions specified in a probation order (Criminal Code, s.730).
  10. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the terms 'acquittal' and 'dismissed' are used interchangeably. This results in an undercounting of acquittals in that jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, the number of acquittals may be over-reported due to administrative practices.
  11. Cases where the accused was referred to an Alternative Measures Program are included in this category. If completed successfully, there is no conviction recorded against the accused.
  12. Cases can have more than one sentence. Therefore, sanctions are not mutually exclusive and will not add to 100%.
  13. Conditional sentencing data are not available for Quebec.
  14. First and second degree murder cases are under the exclusive jurisdiction of superior courts. In jurisdictions not reporting superior courts data, the final decisions in these cases will be a transfer to another court level. This leads to an under-estimate of the percentage of such cases resulting in the accused being found guilty.
  15. See M. Thomas, H. Hurley, and C. Grimes. 2002. "Pilot analysis of recidivism among convicted youth and young adults–1999/2000." Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-XIE. Vol. 22, no. 9. Ottawa.
  16. Excludes cases with a prison sentence, but unknown length.
  17. Time in custody prior to sentencing is sometimes taken into consideration when imposing a sentence. The length of time in custody prior to sentencing and the extent to which it influences the sentence imposed are not available from the ACCS.
  18. Percentages do not add to 100 due to rounding.
  19. The custodial sentence lengths for homicide are under-reported due to a couple of factors.  Data on time served in remand awaiting and during trial for which the accused may be given credit, are not available from any jurisdiction at this time (this is true for all other offences as well).  Also, the absence of superior court data from 5 jurisdictions likely has an impact on length of custodial sentences for murder and infanticide in those jurisdictions (Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan). This is due to the fact that superior courts have absolute jurisdiction over cases involving murder and infanticide.
  20. Although the YCJA is legislation governing criminal justice of young persons, there are several offences in the Act under which an adult can be charged such as: s. 136(a) inducing a young person to leave unlawfully a place of custody, s. 136(c) harbouring a young person who has left a place of custody, s. 136(d) inducing or assisting a young person to breach or disobey a term or condition of a youth sentence, etc.
  21. The minimum sentence for a first offence of impaired driving is a fine of not less than $1,000 (C.C.C. s. 255(1) (a) (i)).
  22. Excludes cases where the length of probation was unknown.
  23. Data cover the 10 jurisdictions consistently reporting to the survey since 2000/2001. Excluded are Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
  24. The median elapsed time for all 13 provinces and territories in 2008/2009 was 124 days.
  25. 59 Criminal Code, (3d) 449. In this decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the right of an accused to be brought to trial without excessive delay. Further clarification of the issue was provided by R. v. Morin (1992) 71 C.C.C. (3d) 193 (S.C.C.). The judgement in Morin suggested that an eight to ten month delay was tolerable between charges being laid and the subsequent trial in provincial court.
  26. The data in this section are based on all provinces and territories for 2008/2009.
  27. For analytical purposes, when a case has more than one charge, it is necessary to decide which charge will be used to represent the case. If the case includes a finding of guilt, that charge will always be considered the most serious. The most serious offence in a case with multiple guilty findings is determined based on the type of offence and the sentences imposed. See methodology section for more information on ICCS/ACCS counting procedures and most serious offence rules.
  28. Although the YCJA is legislation governing criminal justice of young persons, there are several offences in the Act under which an adult can be charged such as: s. 136(a) inducing a young person to leave unlawfully a place of custody, s. 136(c) harbouring a young person who has left a place of custody, s. 136(d) inducing or assisting a young person to breach or disobey a term or condition of a youth sentence, etc.
  29. The analysis of elapsed time for trial and non-trial cases excludes Manitoba since data on the plea of the accused are not available.
  30. For the purpose of analysis in this article, a general definition of "collapsed case" has been used which may be different from how it is defined by the provinces and territories. The definition may also vary from one jurisdiction to another.
  31. For more information on factors affecting case elapsed time, see J. Pereira and C. Grimes, "Case processing in criminal courts, 1999/2000." Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-XPE. Vol.  22, no. 1. Ottawa.
  32. Information on Ontario's "Justice On Target" initiatives is available on-line at http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/jot (accessed March 8, 2010). Other provincial case management initiatives in place are Newfoundland and Labrador's Report of the Task force on Criminal Justice Effectiveness, Manitoba's Pre-Trial Co-ordination Protocol, the Court Case Management Program in Alberta, and The British Columbia Justice Efficiencies Project.
  33. For further information, see "Addressing Inefficiencies in the Criminal Justice Process–A Preliminary Review", by Yvon Dandurand, prepared for the BC Justice Efficiencies Project, Criminal Justice Reform Secretariat, available on the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy website at http://www.icclr.law.ubc.ca/files/2009/InefficienciesPreliminaryReport.pdf (accessed March 8, 2010).
  34. Under the Young Offenders Act (repealed in 2003), it was possible for a youth to be tried as an adult. Such matters were transferred to adult criminal court. Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (April 2003), youth may be subject to adult sentencing but remain in youth court.
Date modified: