Saturday February 18, 2012

Local News

Courts In Crisis

Chilliwack has longest trial waits in BC

Submitted by Gwen O'Mahony for the NDP


ew Democrats held the Liberal government to account this week for the crisis they have created in our courtrooms, with delayed and cancelled trials allowing criminals to walk free.


On Thursday in the legislature, New Democrat solicitor general critic Kathy Corrigan raised concerns that Chilliwack, specifically, has the longest trial delays among B.C.’s provincial courts.

“On average there is a 16-month delay to find the next available court date in Chilliwack.”

Corrigan said it is unacceptable that the government has left the courts in such a crisis. She said Chilliwack also has the longest delays in B.C. for child protection hearings (an average of eight months), the longest delays in family trials (average 10 month delay), the longest delays in adult criminal two-day trials (an average 16-month delay), and the third longest delays for settlements and civil trials.

When asked if they were going to show some leadership and act decisively to fix this intolerable crisis in our justice system, the Liberals refused to take any responsibility after 11 years in government.

On Wednesday, Adrian Dix and the New Democrats raised a recent case where an alleged child predator went free after provincial court Judge Daniel Steinberg was forced to cancel the trial because of excessive delays.

Judge Steinberg said in his decision, "There is…only one word to describe the current state of the Provincial Court of British Columbia's ability to handle its caseload: abysmal."

Judge Steinberg continued, "I find that the consequences of the government's decision-making and priority-setting have meant the creation in this case, as in many others, of an intolerable delay…The government has spoken through its actions, and the stay…is the consequence."

Leonard Krog, New Democrat attorney general critic, said in the legislature Wednesday, “Criminals walk the streets of British Columbia who should be in jail.

“This serious shortage of judges arose because of deliberate government policy,” said Krog. “The reason people are walking the streets is because of deliberate government policy. Those aren't my words. Those are the words of Provincial Court judges across this province, who have said it over and over again. The Liberal government closed courthouses.”

Last week a B.C. Ministry of Finance audit was quietly released that precisely lays out the problems in British Columbia’s justice system, and says while crimes have dropped, the number of delayed and cancelled trials has increased under this government. The report has been on government desks since September.

“The Liberal government has been sitting on this audit for six months, and in that time the cases that have been cancelled or are under threat of being cancelled are getting more severe,” said Krog. “While the child internet luring trial was cancelled, another drinking and driving case resulting in death is under threat of being cancelled.”

Adrian Dix and the New Democrats believe British Columbians want a government that will show leadership and act decisively to fix the intolerable crisis in our justice system.


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