Pandemic Justice: Parole Board Launches Videoconferencing Pilot Project
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to shape how Canadian criminal lawyers and their clients handle all varieties of legal issues. For example, the Parole Board of Canada recently announced the launch of a new pilot project allowing victims of crime to participate in parole hearings via videoconferencing. The project is currently active in Ontario and Quebec only, but the Board plans to expand it to the rest of Canada by the end of the year.
Like any new development in criminal law, the pilot has attracted the attention of Canadian criminal lawyers, some of whom can be found in our comprehensive lawyer directory. Parole hearings are a critical moment in an offender’s rehabilitation process.
The project was enacted after the Parole Board consulted with public health authorities. The goal was to allow parole hearings to proceed as normally as possible while protecting the health of Board members, staff, criminal offenders, and the public.
“Victims play an integral role in the conditional release process of offenders, and the Government of Canada and the Parole Board remain committed to respecting and protecting victims’ rights under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights,” said Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair in a statement.
The project has also been applauded by the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, which, according to a report by Canadian Lawyer, has received concerned statements from victims of crime about their role in parole hearings amid the pandemic. Some victims reported having their participation limited to teleconferencing; others said it has been cancelled outright.
“Victims and their families wanted to see the offender, other participants and deliver their victims statements to Board members they were addressing,” said Heidi Illingworth, the Ombudsman, in the same statement.
Illingworth also noted that videoconferencing could make it easier and more convenient for crime victims to participate in parole hearings after the pandemic has subsided and long into the future.
“I believe in modernizing the Board’s capacity and infrastructure, as other courts and tribunals across Canada have done in light of COVID-19, is fair and should remain available to victims after the pandemic has ended,” she said.
For criminal defence lawyers in Toronto and throughout Canada, like the ones listed in our lawyer directory, it is too early to predict the impact that videoconferencing on parole hearing success rates. However, it is difficult to argue against more accessibility for crime victims.
If you require the assistance of a Canadian legal professional, our Canadian lawyer directory is a great place to start. Find experienced lawyers in every field practicing in your city today.