Joy Hulton: Award-winning upgrade for York's courtroom experience
York Region operates the second busiest provincial offences court in Ontario with about 98 percent of the cases it deals with being related to traffic matters. It also happens to see some 52 percent of those cases disputed in the courtroom, which is a significantly higher rate than the provincial average of between 35 and 38 percent.
All this means York Regional Police officers were spending a substantial amount of their time on a monthly basis either sitting in a courtroom or stuck in their cars traveling to get there. After all, if an officer doesn’t appear, the case gets thrown out. And at that point, the municipality is left covering the cost of the offence, but none of the potential revenue.
Creation of Court Remote Testimony
York’s solution – Court Remote Testimony – earned recognition at the 2019 Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference where it was one of the recipients of the Peter J. Marshall Innovation Award.
Joy Hulton, Regional Solicitor, Commissioner Legal & Court Services at York Region, joined Municipal World CEO Susan Gardner at AMO to discuss how the program came to be and how it may be a solution for numerous other communities facing the same problem.
“This was 18 months to two years from start to finish because we were the first provincial offences court in the province to do this,” Hulton said. Detailing the setup of the system, he also noted, “We needed something more sophisticated than simply Skype. It’s not a matter of being able to see them and them see you. In order to meet the requirements of the justice system, we have to replicate everything as if the officer is sitting in the courtroom.”
Hard Work to Pay Off for Other Courts
As Hulton explains in the video, a lot of work went into creating Court Remote Testimony. As a result, however, not only does York Region have this program, but it is also available for others that want to use it.
“This is a solution; we’ve already had a number of court mangers come and see it,” she said. “They’re very interested. Most of them, outside of Toronto, are like us. They have courts and police officers spread over a wide geographic area; so they have the same issue we have.” MW
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