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

Signs in First Nations language go up at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Langley

‘It’s beyond joy, what I’m feeling’ at sight of signs: Kwantlen First Nation member

$2.9 million judgment in Langley blueberry farm sabotage lawsuit

The new owners saw most of their farm ruined just as they took possession

Cold weather warning issued for Langley

Homeless advised to seek shelter at Gateway of Hope

Langley council calls for changes after developer donations controversy

The province should review rules around donations, council voted

Bye bye Bei Bei: Giant panda born in U.S. zoo heads to China

Panda heads back to China as part of cooperative breeding program

Three people deported after Surrey brawl caught on camera: RCMP

Police say they have been ‘actively engaged’ in the issue of youth fights in Newton since March

Bidders down, costs up on Highway 1, B.C. independent contractors say

Rally protests NDP government’s union-only public construction

Members of little people community applaud change to drop ‘midget’ term

‘It’s not about sensitivity,’ says Allan Redford, the president of the Little People of Canada

‘Police incident’ leads Squamish RCMP to ask public to leave Stawamus Chief

People were told to expected a ‘noted police presence’

Little progress in preventing sudden infant deaths since last report: BC Coroner

Coroners panel studied 141 sleep-related sudden infant deaths between 2013 and 2018

B.C.’s ‘Dr. Frankenstein of guns’ back in jail yet again for trafficking in Glock parts

Bradley Michael Friesen has parole revoked for allegedly importing gun parts yet again

B.C. woman suing after laser hair removal leaves her with ‘severe’ burns, scarring

Nadeau felt ‘far more pain’ than usual during the treatment

Union to prepare for picket lines, announce new measures in transit strike escalation

Unifor said the move comes after a ‘failure by the employer to make new offers at the bargaining table’

Most Read