B.C. seeks to ‘modernize’ court system

A day after appointing nine new provincial court judges, the B.C. government has launched its latest review of the court system

  • Feb. 15, 2012 10:00 a.m.

By Tom Fletcher

Black Press

A day after appointing nine new provincial court judges, the B.C. government has launched its latest review of the court system, trying to identify why the courts are slowing down despite falling crime and case rates over the past 20 years.

Premier Christy Clark and Attorney General Shirley Bond announced the review Wednesday in Vancouver. They released an audit and discussion paper that show B.C.’s crime rate has declined faster than any Canadian province, to the point where 13,000 fewer new provincial criminal cases were heard in the past year, compared to 10 years ago.

Despite that, the B.C. court system has an estimated 2,000 cases that are in danger of being dismissed based on excessive delays, and there are regular reports of criminal charges being stayed due to delays.

The government has appointed 23 judges in the last two years, and ramped up training for sheriffs and other court staff to partially restore budget cuts to the system in previous years.

“If it was just about money, that would be a pretty simple answer,” Clark said. She added that one problem is that suspects now appear in court an average of six times before their trials begin.

Bond appointed lawyer Geoffrey Cowper, a former chair of the Legal Services Society, to make recommendations on changes by July. One issue to be studied is B.C.’s practice of having Crown prosecutors approve all charges, instead of giving police that authority as is done in other provinces.

NDP leader Adrian Dix and justice critic Leonard Krog blasted the announcement as the latest in a long series of reviews, this one designed to push the “crisis” in the courts beyond the 2013 provincial election.

Dix warned that the province has not yet taken into account the impact of a federal crime crackdown, with mandatory minimum jail terms for offences such as growing a half a dozen marijuana plants. Those sentences will not only increase jail population in B.C., they will also prompt more accused people to fight charges in court rather than plead guilty, he said.

The announcement included a shuffle of responsibilities that entrenches the merger of Bond’s attorney general and public safety ministries to a single Justice and Attorney General ministry.

Responsibility for the Public Sector Employers Council and ICBC goes from public safety to finance, and responsibility for liquor and gambling policy is transferred to Energy and Mines Minister Rich Coleman.




Just Posted

Fort St. James businesses get into the Christmas spirit with decorating contest

Northland Automotive Ltd. won first place in Fort St. James Chamber of… Continue reading

Couple selling fake jewelry in Fraser Lake, say RCMP

A man and woman have been defrauding local residents, offering fake jewelry for sale

Gitxsan forming cross-sector salmon management team

Nation again declares closure of fishery in territory for 2019

Editorial: The Speaker shouldn’t be an MLA

Time to re-evaluate the Speaker position

Man caught on camera allegedly trying to defraud ICBC

Auto-insurer warns B.C. drivers to record info after crashes

Teenager Alphonso Davies wins Canadian Men’s Soccer Player for the Year Award

Derek Cornelius and Chilliwack native, Jordyn Huitema were named Canadian Youth International Players of the Year

B.C. teen MMA fighter shows heart

Young Unity MMA competitors bring home Ws

2,000 Canadians died of an overdose in first 6 months of the year

New data from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows the crisis is not subsiding

Another B.C. city votes to ban single-use plastic bags

First six months of proposed ban would focus on education, not enforcement

UK Prime Minister Theresa May wins party no-confidence vote, but troubles remain

May won the vote of 317 Conservative legislators with a 200-117 tally

B.C. trustee’s anti-LGBTQ comments got him barred from schools

Barry Neufeld calls vote to leave him off liaison list ‘workplace discrimination’

Firm says trees obstructing vision at Humboldt Broncos crash intersection

Sixteen people died and 13 others were injured in the collision at an intersection north of Tisdale

Man charged after B.C house fire triggers high-grade explosives

Thomas Daniel Kendall charged with causing bodily harm by failing to properly store explosives

Most Read