Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Jury Form Errors Raise Questions about Administration of Justice in Ontario

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Jury Form Errors Raise Questions about Administration of Justice in Ontario

Article excerpt

Ontario jury forms contain eligibility errors

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TORONTO - The standard form sent to prospective jurors in Ontario contains inaccurate instructions that could lead to ineligible people sitting on juries, The Canadian Press has discovered.

Seasoned lawyers, initially unaware of the issue, said the problem raises concerns about whether juries have been properly constituted.

"There's a real risk that potential jurors are misled and that some who are actually ineligible in good faith don't claim ineligibility and may not be weeded out in the course of the jury-selection process," said lawyer Brian Gover, who has also been a prosecutor.

"There's also the concern about the perception that this could create about the administration of justice."

In line with other provinces, juror notices in Ontario state that anyone convicted of a criminal offence is, in most cases, barred from serving on a jury. However, instructions accompanying the eligibility questionnaire list more than two dozen offences that do not lead to automatic disqualification.

"If you have been convicted of an offence listed below, you may still be eligible for jury duty," the instructions for Question 6 state.

The list includes offences from engaging in a prize fight and trespassing at night, to being nude in public place or committing an indecent act.

The Criminal Code recognizes two groups of crimes: indictable offences, and less serious summary offences, which carry lower maximum punishments. In so-called hybrid offences, it is up to the prosecutor to decide whether to go the summary or indictment route.

According to Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General, the Juries Act was changed in mid-2010 to exclude people convicted of hybrid offences -- in addition to those convicted of indictable offences -- from serving as jurors.

The problem is that three of the offences listed on the questionnaire as not affecting jury eligibility became hybrid as long as five years ago. …

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