Experts From Across Canada Develop Best Practices For Investigating And Prosecuting Mega Trials
TORONTO, Nov. 14 /CNW/ - Members of Ontario\'s Guns and Gangs Task Force and other organized crime experts came together at a groundbreaking conference to share strategies and tactics for investigating and prosecuting large-scale mega trials, Attorney General Michael Bryant announced today.
"Ontario is leading the way on this front," said Bryant. "As part of our government\'s fight against guns and gangs and all types of violence, we are ensuring our Crown prosecutors are equipped with the most current and cutting-edge information so that they can best prosecute these mega trials."
The conference, opened by the Attorney General, was held over five days last week in Toronto, and was the first of its kind in Canada. Speakers from the Toronto Police Service, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Federal Prosecution Service, the Centre of Forensic Sciences, as well as experts in
search and seizure, proceeds of crime, organized crime and firearms and explosives, shared their knowledge and strategies for successfully prosecuting large-scale mega trials.
"While Crowns continually update their prosecutorial skills, this is the first time very important issues like firearms, proceeds of crime, wiretap evidence and bail have been presented completely in the context of gang and large-scale prosecutions," said Bryant. "These mega trials are relatively new and they require a new approach. For example, our Crowns learned how to use
the latest technology to effectively present the kinds of unique and complex evidence these cases involve."
The McGuinty government is committed to fighting gun crime. That is why it is implementing a $51-million package of initiatives, including:
- Expanding the number of Crown prosecutors working on the Guns and
Gangs Task Force. Currently, 56 Crown prosecutors have been assigned
to this task force, and more will be in position by late fall. When
fully staffed, the task force will have 64 Crowns, including
dedicated prosecutors working in every region of the province.
- Establishing a state-of-the-art provincial operations centre to allow
for highly co-ordinated investigations and prosecutions of gun and
gang-related offences. Scheduled to open in January 2007, it will be
located at an undisclosed location in the Greater Toronto Area. When
open, the centre will house the Guns and Gangs Task Force, which
includes the Toronto Police Service, Ontario Provincial Police, a
team of specialized Crown prosecutors, support staff, probation and
parole officers and a victims unit.
- Fast-tracking the hiring of 1,000 additional police officers.
Currently, about 800 additional officers are or will soon be on the
street. The McGuinty government has provided the funding to allow
police services to hire the remaining 200 officers by the end of the
- Constructing specialized, high-security major crime courts to
accommodate large-scale, gun and gang prosecutions. The first of
these courts, at 361 University Avenue in Toronto, will be open this
fall. Another, at 2201 Finch Avenue West in Toronto, is expected to
open next year.
"In Ontario, organized crime of all types is meeting organized justice," said Bryant. "We now have a crime-fighting operation in place like never before. I am confident that the positive effects of innovative initiatives like this mega trial conference will be felt across the province for some time
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ONTARIO\'S ANTI-GUN STRATEGY GIVES POLICE AND PROSECUTORS THE TOOLS THEY NEED
The McGuinty government is on the side of Ontarians who are concerned about crime and safety. That is why it is doing everything in its power to get guns off our streets and make our communities safer. Fighting gun violence requires being tough on crime, using strong enforcement and effective
prevention, and taking aim at the causes of crime. Ontario is creating healthy neighbourhoods by targeting investments in better housing, safe schools, after-school activities, and programs for under-served youths and adults. As part of its anti-gun strategy, the Ontario government will continue to work with all levels of government and members of the community to find legislative
changes and community-based initiatives to help end gun violence.
BEING TOUGH ON CRIME
- Provincial Operations Centre - The government is establishing a
state-of-the-art operations centre that will better allow for highly
co-ordinated investigations and prosecutions of guns and gang-related
offences. It was announced by the Premier in January 2006 as part of
a $51 million package of guns and gangs-related initiatives. The
centre participants will include the newly expanded Guns and Gangs
Task Force, Ontario Provincial Police, and probation and parole
staff. Federal participation in the operations centre is being
discussed. Construction has begun. It is anticipated that the centre
will be fully operational by January 2007.
- Expanded Guns and Gangs Task Force - The task force includes police
officers, Crown prosecutors and staff from the Victim/Witness
Assistance Program who work together from the first day of an
investigation. The Crown prosecutors provide early legal advice to
police, especially on search warrants or other issues arising in an
investigation. They also, where appropriate, get legal authorization
for the police to conduct wiretaps. After charges are laid by police,
Crown prosecutors prepare and conduct the prosecutions. The McGuinty
government has expanded the task force twice since October 2005 for a
total of 64 Crown prosecutors and their support staff, and 12
victim/witness service staff. To date, most (56) of the Crown
prosecutors have been assigned. The remaining Crown prosecutors will
be in position by late fall. In addition, Ontario and federal
officials will continue discussions with a view to creating teams of
dedicated provincial and federal prosecutors working together to take
action on gun and related drug crimes.
- Expanded Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit (PWEU) - In January
2006, the McGuinty government announced that an additional 15 OPP
officers would be assigned to the PWEU. They have been recruited, for
a total of 58 officers in the unit.
- Funding for Policing in High-Priority Areas - The government has
provided the Toronto Police Service with $5 million in funding to
strengthen its offensive against gangs in high-priority areas of the
city. This effort includes the establishment of three rapid response
teams each consisting of 18 highly trained police officers,
specializing in drugs and guns interdiction to work on the Toronto
Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy. To date, police have seen
tremendous results including more than 4,948 arrests, the seizure of
more than 299 guns from the streets and establishing more than 33,016
business and community contacts. This funding also included
$2 million for the installation of security cameras at targeted
locations, as well as the expansion of the capacity of the police to
obtain wiretap and search warrants.
- Major Crime Courts - The province is establishing Major Crime Courts
designed to increase the criminal justice system\'s capacity to
respond to large-scale prosecutions. The first major crime courtroom,
located at 361 University Avenue in Toronto, will be ready this fall.
The second, located at 2201 Finch Avenue West in Toronto, is expected
to be ready by fall 2007. The courts will be equipped with higher
levels of security and be capable of dealing with multiple
defendants. Three new judges have been appointed to deal with the
anticipated increase in the volume of work.
- 1,000 Additional Police Officers - Under the Safer Communities -
1,000 Officers Partnership program, about 800 officers, including 250
in Toronto, are or soon will be on duty. The McGuinty government has
provided funding to allow police services to recruit and train the
remaining 200 officers by the end of the year, if they choose to do
- Additional Probation and Parole Officers - The government is hiring
12 new probation and parole officers to conduct risk assessments on
individuals accused of offences related to guns and gangs. Three
support staff have also been hired.
- The Centre of Forensic Sciences - The government has increased
funding to the centre to expand its capacity to perform ballistic
testing and forensic analysis.
- Bail Blitz Teams - The province has established bail blitz teams,
which consist of police, Crown prosecutors and duty counsel working
together to expedite the bail court process at certain sites for
criminal cases, including those involving guns. Teams are working at
College Park Courthouse in Toronto and at the Ottawa Courthouse.
- Calling on Federal Government - The Ontario government led the fight
for mandatory minimum sentences when it comes to gun crimes. The
federal government has recognized the need to change sentences.
Proposed federal legislation would also create two new Criminal Code
gun theft offenses - "robbery with intent to steal a gun" and
"breaking and entering with intent to steal a gun".
We continue to call on the federal government to move as quickly as possible to amend the Criminal Code to:
- impose reverse onus bail for all gun crimes
- implement a handgun ban
- set more severe penalties for breach of bail conditions.
- No Deals for Gun Offenders - Ontario Crown prosecutors are instructed
not to withdraw or plea-bargain firearms-related offences unless
there are exceptional circumstances. The Crown must also seek
appropriate sentences that will act as a deterrent and, in
appropriate cases, consider seeking sentences higher than the
- Gun Amnesty - The Project PEACE gun amnesty was implemented by the
Toronto Police Service and supported by the Ministry of the Attorney
General from November 7-30, 2005. A total of 261 guns, including 33
handguns, and 1,554 rounds of ammunition were collected.
- "Blitz" Inspections of Gun-Licensed Businesses in Toronto - The
government funded a blitz inspection of 32 gun-licensed businesses in
Toronto in September 2005, to ensure gun storage and safekeeping
standards were being met. The Chief Firearms Office is now
incorporating unannounced inspections of gun-licensed businesses
across the province into its regular procedures. Previously, most
inspections were scheduled in advance.
- Ontario\'s Witness Protection Program - The program has been improved
to encourage more community members to come forward when they have
witnessed a serious crime. The Ministry of the Attorney General has
improved short-term protection, and reduced the red tape involved in
obtaining admission to the program and receiving a new identity.
The Attorney General will continue to work with his federal
counterpart to improve the federal witness protection plan so that it
can work in a coordinated manner with Ontario\'s program.
- Community Impact Evidence - The Ministry of the Attorney General is
implementing new and innovative ways for Crown prosecutors to seek
tougher sentences by developing and presenting evidence to the court
about the devastating impact of gun violence on individuals and
BEING TOUGH ON THE CAUSES OF CRIME
- Youth Opportunity Strategy - The government is investing
$28.5 million over the first three years of the strategy to improve
outcomes for youth in under-served communities, beginning primarily
with neighbourhoods in Toronto. Next year, the strategy will be
expanded to additional communities across the province, including
Windsor, Ottawa, London, Hamilton and Thunder Bay.
The strategy includes the following five components:
- Summer Jobs For Youth Program - In 2006, this program
provided summer jobs for 800 youth from under-served
communities in Toronto. The program includes pre-employment
readiness, employment placements and post-employment
supports in a variety of fields including business,
recreation and youth leadership. In summer 2007, the program
will be expanded to 1,650 youth from under-served
communities across the province.
- Youth Outreach Worker Program - This program employs 39
youth outreach workers (35 in Toronto and four in Durham
Region) to serve as mentors and advocates for youth from
under-served communities. In 2007, an additional 23 outreach
workers will be hired to work in under-served communities
across the province, bringing the total to 62 outreach
workers in Ontario.
- Youth in Policing Initiative - In summer 2006, 100 youth
from under-served communities in Toronto worked with the
Toronto Police Service in a range of areas to develop skills
relevant to a possible future career in policing. Five
additional youth worked with the Durham Regional Police in a
similar program. In summer 2007, the initiative will be
expanded, enabling at least 60 more youth to work with other
police service organizations across the province.
- YouthConnect.ca - The government\'s new website,
YouthConnect.ca, provides a forum for young people to access
information, services and resources that will help them make
good choices, achieve success and contribute positively to
- School-Based Prevention/Diversion Program - This program is
a partnership among schools, school boards, community-based
agencies and police that helps high school students under 18
years of age, who are at risk of becoming involved or are
already involved in violent and/or offending activity,
increase their chances of school success. Trained peer
mediators and school and community staff work together with
students to address issues leading to offending behaviour,
develop new skills, increase school attachment and take on
leadership roles. The program is being delivered in 12
communities across the province in 2006-07. In 2007-08, the
program will be offered in six additional communities
bringing the total to 18 communities.
- Down with Guns Program - The government is directing $3 million to a
community-designed initiative that is to be led by the Toronto
Community Foundation in partnership with the Coalition of Christian
Leaders. The strategy has four goals: to strengthen families, focus
on education, create employment options and opportunity, and
encourage youth to know their civic rights and responsibilities.
- Youth Challenge Fund - A $15 million challenge fund will sponsor
local programs, training and jobs for under-served youth. Chaired by
Toronto Argonauts Head Coach Mike "Pinball" Clemons, the fund will
target 13 under-served Toronto neighbourhoods. It supports ideas for
communities that come directly from people living in the
neighbourhoods. Community members and organizations are able to apply
to the fund to cover the costs of new or existing local programs to
help keep kids off the streets. The Premier challenged the private
sector and private contributors to match the government\'s $15 million
investment. The government will then match private sector
contributions up to an additional $15 million, for a potential total
investment of more than $45 million over the next three years.
- Youth Justice Committees - The Youth Justice Committee program, an
alternative to the formal court process that holds low-risk young
offenders accountable and addresses issues that may lead to re-
offending, is being expanded to a total of 46 communities across the
- Youth Intervention Centres -Since April 2006, the government has
established an additional 14 youth intervention centres for a total
of 29 across the province. The centres provide structured and closely
supervised programs where youth in conflict with the law accept
responsibility for their actions, and develop anger management,
learning, employment and other life skills to help re-integrate them
into their communities.
- African Canadian Youth Justice Program - In May 2006, the Ontario
government, in partnership with the African Canadian Legal Clinic
(ACLC), launched an innovative new program to help youth, aged 12 to
17, achieve better outcomes through appropriate community-based,
culturally-sensitive services and referrals. Operating out of four
Toronto-area youth court locations, the program offers both court
workers and reintegration social workers to assist youth in accessing
community supports and resources, including counselling and
- Community Use of Schools - The province has invested $20 million
annually for the past 3 years in the Community Use of Schools
program. The program encourages increased use of schools by not-for-
profit groups at reduced rates during non-school hours to promote
participation in a range of community activities such as
recreation and physical activity programs.
- Safe Schools Action Team - The McGuinty government has appointed a
special Safe Schools Action Team to advise on the development of a
comprehensive and coordinated approach to address physical and social
safety issues in all Ontario schools. The government\'s Safe Schools
Strategy includes provincewide school safety audits, bullying-
prevention training for principals, tools such as school climate
surveys and a review of the Safe Schools Act. Funding has been
provided to school boards for new security devices and bullying
prevention programs ($1,500 per elementary school and $2,000 per
secondary school, totalling, $7.83 million).
- Kids Help Phone - The government entered into a three year,
$3- million partnership with Kids Help Phone. This will double the
helpline\'s capacity to provide anonymous counselling to students in
Ontario who are dealing with bullying issues. This is expected to
benefit 30,000 more students each year. Kids Help Phone is Canada\'s
only 24-hour, seven-day-a-week toll-free, anonymous referral and
information service. Services are available to children and youth in
English and French by calling the toll free phone number or through
online web counselling. Information materials, including posters and
wallet cards to inform students about the Kids Help Phone have been
provided to school boards.
- Leave Out ViolencE (LOVE) - A special project grant was provided to
LOVE to provide outreach and support to school children and youth in
high-risk neighbourhoods. Youth leaders are being trained to become
peer mentors and will conduct presentations in schools to help
empower youth and children to take a stand against the violence that
has penetrated their communities and prevent re-victimization.
- Learning to 18 - To improve students\' achievement in high school
increase graduation rates and dramatically reduce the unacceptably
high dropout rate, the government launched the $1.3 billion Student
Success Strategy. It includes: the introduction of legislation that
would, if passed, ensure that students keep learning to age 18 or
graduation; new Specialist High-Skills Majors within the high school
diploma; opportunities for students to earn dual credits through
college, apprenticeship and postsecondary courses that count toward
the high school diploma; and expanded cooperative education choices.
As a part of the strategy, students are benefiting from additional
teachers dedicated to student success in every secondary school,
innovative lighthouse programs, class-size limits in key courses and
upgraded technological education equipment.
- Apprenticeship Training - $1 million fund created for Pre-
Apprenticeship Training Programs, approximately 100 at-risk youth
have been learning practical skills to help them become eligible for
apprenticeship programs in the skilled trades.
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For further information: Greg Crone, Ministry of the Attorney General Minister\'s Office, (416) 326-1785; Brendan Crawley, Ministry of the Attorney General, Communications Branch, (416) 326-2210