UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Wrongful convictions : a review and assessment of miscarriage of justice in Canada David, Lisa


Despite the checks and balances of our criminal justice system many cases of wrongful convictions have occurred. In Canada, the government has responded to wrongful convictions by creating a legislative process whereby someone claiming they have been wrongfully convicted can apply to the Federal Minister of Justice based on a miscarriage of justice. The postconviction review process allows the Minister of Justice to refer cases back to courts if, he or she is satisfied that a new trial or hearing should be directed. The Department of Justice initiated internal changes to the postconviction review process in 1994 after serious criticism about the process. The changes created were not significant enough to curb more criticism and the need arose to rectify the problems again. Possible reform options included; the creation of a separate agency for reviewing criminal convictions, the elimination of s.690 altogether with a broadening of the scope of appellate review, or amending the s.690 process. In 2002 the Government decided to amend the existing process and ss.696.1 to 696.6 of the Criminal Code and the applicable regulations are Canada’s current legislative postconviction review process. It has been eight years since these legislative changes were made and this thesis is going to assess whether the changes were an effective response to the criticisms that plagued the previous process. A look at the legislative changes along with an in-depth statistical analysis is conducted to determine if the process addressed the criticisms of not being independent, open, effective, and accessible. The years have shown, that there has been little real improvement in the function of the system. The changes made were not substantial enough to check the existing problems. The need to reassess the situation is still paramount. After canvassing the options for reform I conclude that the only viable option is to create an independent criminal convictions review body. I hope that the carefully considered and consolidated research for this thesis will allow the government to take notice of the genuine need of those struggling to gain access to a system that should run and effectively and efficiently.

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