The saying "justice delayed is justice denied" now has real meaning in courtrooms across Canada.


On Friday the Supreme Court of Canada set new deadlines for completing trials. A ruling that is being described as potentially groundbreaking.

The court ruled trials will have to be held within a specific time frame or the charges could be dropped.

Proceedings are now being considered unreasonably delayed if they last longer than 18 months in provincial court and 30 months in superior court, from the time an individual is charged to the end of a trial.

The high court's decision rested on a slim 5-4 majority. Dissenters expressed concern that hundreds of cases could be thrown out.

"The majority explicitly says that this new case, new framework should not be used to bring about the stay of proceedures," said Stephane Beaulac, a professor at the University of Montreal. "There should be a transition period within which the cases that have been started would be completed even if strictly speaking they don't meet the new criteria."

The new ruling could change things for people such as Michael Applebaum. Last month his lawyer asked a judge to drop charges against his client, arguing the former Montreal mayor's case had been unreasonably delayed. He was arrested three years ago but his case has yet to go to trial.

In 2015 charges against five accused Hells Angels were dropped. One of the reasons cited by the judge was the Crown prosecutors' delay turning over evidence.

For cases where a delay may be necessary,  the court ruled that the Crown will need to show that there are exceptional circumstances.

In a statement Quebec's Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee says the government is analysing the Supreme Court's decision and are actively working to reduce delays in the justice system.