What Happens At Pre-Trial Conferences And Judicial Pre-Trial Conferences

After all the evidence has been examined and I have considered various aspects of my defense, the next step is meeting with the Crown or meeting with the Crown and the judge to discuss the case.

These meetings usually take place on court appearance dates because the Crown has the file available. Sometimes we arrange and do telephone pre-trial conferences, although I prefer being face to face with the person.

The negotiations with the Crown can take place over one or more meetings and the discussions are wide ranging. Sometimes, one side has to get more information or input, be it from the police officer or witness or from the client. The meetings may involve discussions of guilt or innocence, weaknesses and strengths of the case, and alternate lesser charges. We may discuss the admissibility of certain evidence. We discuss whether there have been any Charter infringements and any applications that need to be brought to assert those infringements.

It’s at this time that I have a chance to provide the Crown with information that they would not otherwise have in the hopes that I can convince the Crown to change their view or their position regarding the case. It’s important to remember that, when the case comes in from the police, the Crown reviews it and comes to an initial assessment but they haven’t heard anything about the other side. This is the time that I have the opportunity to provide certain information that may be beneficial to my client’s case.

If negotiations stall or either side thinks that a judge would assist in resolving the issues, we can then arrange an appointment with the judge. This is called the judicial pre-trial conference or JPT. If after this meeting, we cannot agree on a way to resolve a charge, then we need to set a date for the trial.

Sometimes a judicial pre-trial conference is needed if the Crown and I have come to a position but it’s one that has to be explained in detail to understand or one that a judge might think is too harsh or too lenient. At this point we have an informal, confidential discussion with the judge and present why we want to do this and the reasons for it. If the judge says, “Yes, okay I understand and I’ll go along with it,” then we know and my client has certainty that the judge is not going to balk at it or impose something different when he sees my client in court. Such a meeting can often be a safeguard to ensure that the plea arrangement works.

There are certain risks when a person is charged with a criminal offence and so a large part of my job is just managing that risk, reducing the uncertainty. That’s one benefit of running my case past a judge at a judicial pre-trial. The judge will normally indicate which side they are leaning to. Then I take that information and go back to my client and explain what to expect. That’s very useful and hopeful to a client.

If you, or someone you care about, is dealing with criminal law issues in the Newmarket, Ontario Region, contact Hobson & Reeve Barrsiters for a consultation.

This article is taken from a May, 2009 interview with Dennis Reeve, Criminal Lawyer with Hobson & Reeve Barristers, an Newmarket, Ontario Criminal Law Firm. Note that laws vary from province to province. Please consult with a lawyer in your own area to be sure of the laws and specific issues in your own jurisdiction.