Congestion in B.C.'s courts has eased considerably

Wheels of justice turning faster in B.C courts

Report shows long delays for criminal trials have eased

B.C.’s once-jammed court system seems to be coming unstuck.

A new B.C. Provincial Court report on court congestion shows 1,265 criminal cases now in the justice system have waited more than 18 months to get to trial.

That number has fallen almost 50 per cent from a peak three years ago of more than 2,500 criminal cases waiting so long they were in danger of being tossed out.

The average delay for a half-day criminal trial has declined to less than six months – better than the province’s target – from more than 10 months in 2010, when judges issued their original “Justice Delayed” report criticizing court conditions.

Two-day trials that had waited almost a year in 2010 are now getting trial dates within seven months.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said in a statement she hopes the trend of less delay  for criminal trials continues as the province explores more options for justice reform.

“The number of new cases continues to decline and we are having ongoing discussions with the judiciary on how best to determine the appropriate number of judges to support the system,” she said.

As of June, 57 per cent of all cases faced delays of six months or less to trial, while 84 per cent faced delays of no more than a year.

More than 100 accused criminals walked free in 2011 due to excessive court delays, but that number fell to 66 last year.

B.C.’s shift to roadside impaired driving penalties administered by police, instead of prosecuting drunk drivers has helped reduce pressure on the courts.

The province is also looking at family law reforms and moving small claims cases out of courtrooms to administrative tribunals.

Some courthouses still face longer waits, according to the latest report.

Abbotsford, Fort St. John and Dawson Creek had 10-month waits to trial for two-day cases, as of Sept. 30, while Surrey, Williams Lake and Quesnel were nine months.

Two years earlier, the worst courthouses, such as Surrey, were mired in 13- to 16-month waits.

The latest “Time to Trial” report shows less improvement for civil cases, with family law trials and child protection hearings still taking significantly longer than the provincial target to get heard.

Child protection hearing waits are worst in Abbotsford (13 months), Chilliwack and Surrey (both 11 months.)

Critics say the province’s failure to adequately fund legal aid has clogged family law courts in particular, as too many people try to represent themselves.

Although the province appointed 19 Provincial Court judges since 2012, others have retired and the overall complement has held steady in recent years, down about 10 per cent from pre-2009 levels.

Anton said more money isn’t the only solution to the system’s challenges, adding more emphasis is being put on improved courthouse administration.

NDP justice critic Leonard Krog said the improvement is partly due to the province taking a more cooperative, less confrontation approach to the judiciary.

“It’s trending in the right direction,” Krog said, but added more must be done.

“It’s great that people on the criminal justice side are getting more access to justice. It’s disappointing that ordinary citizens seeking justice on the family and civil side still face significant delays.”

Statistics from the B.C. Provincial Court shows the severe criminal trial delays of 2010-11 have subsided.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Langley school trustees approve pay hikes

Proposal to adjust compensation every year based on inflation index rejected

Man confessed to ‘Mr. Big’ that he killed his half-sister by suffocating her

Details heard in court about murder of Rachel Pernosky, 18, of Mission

115 new wildfires burning across B.C. due to 19,000 lightning strikes

More fires expected to start today, says BC Wildfire Service officials

Langley MP pledges support for stranded adopting families

Mark Warawa said he will pressure the minister of immigration on the issue.

Air cadets: Future career aviators in the making in Langley

A squadron review highlight accomplishments of several Langley cadets.

VIDEO: Aspiring Langley rancher plans to swap one saddle for another

Burklan Johnson has only ridden a horse once, but this unicyclist has big plans to become a cowboy.

Fireworks and fires over a half-metre banned Friday in Kamloops centre

B.C. Wildfire Service banning to category 2 and 3 fires in Kamloops Fire Centre at noon Friday

Rescued Oregon family simply unprepared for adventure, RCMP say

Agencies now helping the group of four get to their destination in Alaska

Large B.C. tree dies after possible poisoning

Police and District investigate after large chestnut tree’s rapid decline

Canucks release 2018-19 season schedule

Vancouver to face Calgary Flames on Wednesday, Oct. 3, for home opener

VIDEO: Luxury Home and Design Show opens with Italian flare

Event set to run Friday to Sunday at BC Place in Vancouver

Small new charge on BC Hydro bills goes toward new crisis fund

The new fund aims to help customers who find themselves in financial emergencies

UPDATED: Crown appeals B.C. polygamous leader’s acquittal in child bride case

James Oler had been charged with taking his underage daughter to the U.S. to marry her off

South of the Fraser condo flipping increased as market heated up

Local realtors say investors were re-selling through assignment sales, but the trend may reverse.

Most Read