New funds, recruits set to alleviate B.C. sheriff shortage

The Government of British Columbia announced new sheriff graduates, funding for more classes

The provincial government announced new funding today in an attempt to calm a sheriff shortage in B.C. that has spurred court delays and dropped charges

Just two weeks ago two Victoria men whose criminal charges were dropped last year because of a lack of available sheriffs were ordered back to court.

Related: B.C. men to return to court after sheriff shortage prompted charge dismissals

The province announced it has now allocated funding to create three new sheriff recruit training classes in 2018.

A move the province claims will further support “…a justice system that is properly staffed, resolves disputes in a timely manner and serves the needs of all court users in B.C.”

The Ministry of Attorney General states that today marked the graduation of the first class of 18 recruits, who will join the more than 490 sheriffs serving throughout the province.

“Sheriffs are an integral part of ensuring our courts operate in a safe and timely manner, and I congratulate all of today’s graduates,” said David Eby, Attorney General.

“Our government will continue to take action to increase access to justice in our province, and these added sheriff recruit classes form part of that.”

The Ministry of Attorney General’s Court Services Branch received a $6.64-million budget lift, of which $5 million was allocated to increase the number of sheriffs and staffing of the Court Services Branch, to help reduce court delays.

Sheriff recruits must complete a 14-week training program, held at the JIBC’s Sheriff Academy at its New Westminster campus, to graduate.

Classes are developed in collaboration with the Court Services Branch and JIBC. Recruits are ready to serve in the province’s courtrooms immediately upon graduation.

“As we approach JIBC’s 40th anniversary, our longstanding partnership with B.C. Sheriff Services is a proud part of our history,” said Michel Tarko, president and CEO of JIBC.

“This additional funding, for a third cohort of sheriff recruit officers, is a prime example of JIBC responding to labour-market needs by providing the training to support our provincial mandate and vision of safer communities and a more just society.”

Sheriffs provide courthouse security and jury management, as well as the safe and efficient escort of those in custody to and from court, correctional centres and police lockup facilities.

Related: Court delays one of several issues tackled by feds in tabled bill

A lack of sheriffs have long caused delays in the B.C. justice system.

Such shortages led to six courtroom delays and eight closures between fall 2016 and spring 2017, according to the province.

The NDP government pledged $15 million in its February budget to hire more staff, while the federal government tabled a new bill last month aimed at reforming many problems of the justice system, including court delays.

Related: NDP hope to nix court delays with $15 million cash influx

The next classes of recruits are set to graduate on Sept. 21, 2018, and Jan. 15, 2019.

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@carmenweld
carmen.weld@bpdigital.ca

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