Criminal offences in Canada are classified into two categories: summary conviction offences and indictable offences. The category of the offence determines how the matter moves through the courts. (Note: A third category of offences - dual or hybrid offences - can be dealt with summarily or by indictment, with the Crown choosing which way to proceed at the outset. The offence is then treated as either summary or indictable and moves through the courts accordingly.)
All criminal charges, regardless of their classification, begin with an appearance in Provincial Court. All summary conviction offences and some indictable offences must be dealt with at Provincial Court.
Other indictable offences allow the person charged to elect, or choose, how they will be tried. This is referred to as a "right-of-election". In these indictable matters, the accused person may choose to have the charge dealt with:
- in Provincial Court, by judge alone
- in Court of Queen’s Bench, by judge alone , or
- in Court of Queen’s Bench, by judge and jury.
In the event that an election is made to be tried in the Court of Queen's Bench, a preliminary inquiry (or hearing) may be held in Provincial Court.
A preliminary inquiry is held to determine if the Crown has sufficient evidence to support the charge. If the court finds that there is sufficient evidence, the accused person will be ordered to stand trial on the charge.
There are a small number of indictable offences (the offence of murder being the most common) where the accused does not have the right-of-election, and the charge must be dealt with at the Court of Queen's Bench.
Because the criminal matters that are handled at the Court of Queen's Bench are indictable, the penalties are potentially more severe. It is recommended that accused persons have the assistance of a lawyer.
Summary Conviction Appeals
The Court of Queen's Bench hears appeals of summary conviction matters that have been dealt with at Provincial Court. Generally, this means most Provincial Court matters are appealed to the Court of Queen's Bench. However, indictable matters heard at Provincial Court are appealed directly to the Court of Appeal.
Appeals are a process where someone who believes that the trial court has made a wrong decision can apply to have a higher court review that decision. There must be a legal reason for an appeal. An example would be if the lower court has made an error applying the law to the case.
Individuals who have been convicted of a summary conviction matter and wish to appeal should do so immediately because there are time limits for appealing a decision.
Individuals who wish to commence a summary conviction appeal should contact the nearest Local Registrar's office.
Appealing a Queen's Bench Decision
Matters that have been decided at the Court of Queen's Bench may be appealed to the Court of Appeal. This includes summary conviction matters where the Court of Queen's Bench has heard the appeal and a party to the case wishes to appeal further.
If a person wishes to appeal a Queen's Bench decision, they must contact the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal.
S. 525 Detention Reviews
Commencing March 2016, the Court is initiating a pilot project to deal with applications received from correctional facilities to review the detention of persons being held before trial in excess of 30 days on a summary conviction offence or 90 days on an indictable offence. This pilot project process is set out in the an information notice.
S. 525 Forms