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Case Review Process

Case Review Process at Innocence Canada

Innocence Canada relies on its legal director, staff lawyers and the Case Review Committee (comprised of senior lawyers who volunteer their time) to review cases for each application which meets our eligibility criteria. The purpose of review is to identify new and significant information that supports the applicant’s claim of innocence and indicates a likely miscarriage of justice occurred. To help in this process, Innocence Canada may engage the help of forensics experts, private investigators, or other specialists.

When an application that meets our criteria is received by Innocence Canada, it is placed on our waiting list. Due to the large volume of applications that we receive and the amount of time required to properly review each application, we are unable to immediately review your case. It may take several years before we review your case and applicants will be notified once a review has begun. A review of your case does not guarantee that we will take you on as a client and file an application with the Minister of Justice on your behalf. If we are unable to identify new avenues to explore in your case, then we may decide to not pursue it further.

The chart below outlines the stages of our case review and adoption process.

Intake and Waitlist

Once an application is received, an intake assessment will be made to determine whether the case meets our criteria (described above). If the legal director determines that your case meets Innocence Canada’s criteria, your case will be moved onto our waitlist. Staff lawyers will then send letters to parties that may have your case material (such as trial and/or appeal counsel, the courts, and the Crown) asking them to preserve materials until Innocence Canada can review your case.

*Please note that given the volume of cases, your case will be on the waitlist for at least 2 years before it can be reviewed.

Preliminary Review

Once a case moves from the waitlist to the active list, a preliminary review is the first stage of the process. The purpose of the preliminary review is to obtain all necessary and relevant information about your case to determine if there is a reasonable likelihood of finding new and significant evidence of innocence.

At this stage, Innocence Canada will try to obtain all necessary information from your lawyers, the Crown, the court and any other parties that may have information or materials. Innocence Canada’s staff lawyers will review the case and decide whether Innocence Canada can continue with the case. If new and significant information about your innocence is identified (or there is a reasonable path toward obtaining new information), the case will continue to a full review. If not, it will be declared inactive and no further work will be done on the case.

Full Review and Investigation

At this stage, Innocence Canada has decided that new and significant information may be found to support your case. A lawyer will be assigned to review your case. They will assess all information gathered to date and recommend further investigative steps to obtain new and significant information. The investigative plan will be discussed with the Case Review Committee and decisions will be made about the plan and any other steps recommended by the Committee.

Investigative steps that have been approved will then be taken. Once all information has been reviewed and investigative avenues exhausted, the lawyer will form an opinion about whether the case meets the criteria in the Criminal Code and if so, will recommend to the Case Review Committee that Innocence Canada file an application to the Minister of Justice on your behalf.

Adoption of a Case

If the reviewing lawyer recommends that Innocence Canada file an application to the Minister of Justice on your behalf, they will bring your case before the Case Review Committee. The Case Review Committee will consider the results of the review, the investigative plan, and the recommendation of the lawyer assigned to your case and will decide whether there is sufficient new evidence to support an application to the Minister of Justice.

If there is sufficient new and significant evidence, then Innocence Canada will adopt your case and support the preparation of the application to the Minister of Justice.
At any stage in the case review process, it may not be possible to find fresh evidence supporting innocence, even after significant effort and investigation. In these circumstances, a decision will be made to change the status of the case from “Active’’ to “Inactive”.