Expansion of Brampton’s courthouse finally complete after years of backlogs and tossed trials
After years of delays and overcrowding at one of the busiest courthouses in Ontario forced the dismissal of trials and raised questions about access to justice across Peel, the expansion of the Brampton facility is finally complete.
The Province’s $117 million project at the A. Grenville and William Davis Superior Court of Justice and Ontario Court of Justice courthouse in Brampton allows the criminal justice system in one of the province’s busiest jurisdictions to keep up with demand that previously had far outpaced available space inside the building.
For residents who have had to navigate a severely strained courthouse system, crippled under the weight of rapid population growth, lack of investment and a pandemic shutdown, with some having to go outside the region to meet their needs, the expansion means improved access to a key right of residents in Peel.
With six new floors, Brampton’s courthouse is now equipped with 18 additional hearing rooms (13 are courtrooms, three are settlement conference spaces and two are pre-trial rooms for the Superior Court of Justice and Ontario Court of Justice) and has upgraded security features such as “courtrooms built for trials involving multiple accused persons and remote testimony spaces,” a press release details. There are now also improved accessibility spaces, like “barrier-free witness stands and specialized seating for jury members.”
“A larger, more secure and accessible courthouse will address the growing needs of Peel Region and connect more people to critical court services, quickly and efficiently,” Attorney General Doug Downey said.
In the past, Downey has highlighted the Covid-19 pandemic for its role in backlogs at courthouses in the province. But while other municipalities faced pandemic delays, in Peel the issue has persisted for decades, with residents, politicians, lawyers and judges underscoring the danger of dismissing serious charges because of a lack of resources: “[D]ue to the inaction and, willful blindness on the part of the provincial government to address these space challenges, we are now faced with very real and unacceptable delays in the hearing of all matters in Brampton,” former Senior Regional Justice Peter Daley said in 2018—before the pandemic—about the lack of available hearing rooms and judicial office space at Brampton’s Superior Court of Justice (he clarified he was not talking about courtroom facilities and judicial chamber issues pertaining to the provincial Ontario Court of Justice).
“The lack of available hearing rooms and judicial office space for the Superior Court of Justice in Brampton has now reached a breaking point,” he remarked to the provincial government.
Access for those accused of crimes was also a growing concern, as many were denied the right to efficient due process under the law, languishing while cases were often repeatedly delayed. Some were eventually dismissed due to the lack of funding by the provincial government.
The courthouse opened without enough capacity to serve the Region in 2000, and once Peel’s population skyrocketed further, the burden on the system continued to grow, with some residents having to seek access to the justice system through neighbouring jurisdictions.
As previously reported by The Pointer, the A. Grenville and William Davis Courthouse at 7755 Hurontario Street in Brampton needed overflow space for its parking lot long before the region was faced with setbacks from the Covid-19 pandemic, and has seen cases dropped because its courtrooms were so badly backlogged that charges had to be tossed out.
According to the Province, the expansion of Brampton’s courthouse will increase hearing room capacity by 35 percent, with the facility handling approximately 15,000 incoming criminal cases, 4,100 incoming family cases, 4,000 incoming civil cases and 5,000 small claims cases in 2022-2023.
Pandemic lockdowns resulted in courtroom closures. Criminal court cases and provincial offence cases (handled by a lower court in a separate building) were backlogged, and as previously reported by The Pointer, City officials sought help over the worsening pileup in the provincial offence courts, which deal with traffic and bylaw matters.
A year later, Ontario announced it would contribute $72 million over two years to help clear the accumulation of criminal cases at the higher court going back to March 2020.
A 2017 “Year-End Report” from the Province detailed the need to “help alleviate the backlog of cases in Brampton’s courts, providing residents a quicker solution”.
Email: [email protected]
At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories to ensure every resident of Brampton, Mississauga and Niagara has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you
Submit a correction about this story