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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Monday marks one-year anniversary of man missing from Langley

Searl Smith was last seen leaving Langley Memorial Hospital on Feb. 17, 2019.

Fort Langley man released from quarantined cruise ship in Japan

Because Spencer Fehrenbacher has American citizenship, he was evacuated by the U.S.

Langley’s Colyn punches his ticket to U SPORTS championships

Trinity Western University runner records two personal bests at Seattle meet

Training injury will keep Langley boxer out of Gallagher tournament

Light middleweight Ali Owainati suffered a cut lip

VIDEO: Half-marathon for hospice society draws hundreds to new Langley route

Despite a mudslide that forced a last-minute move, attendance was up, slightly

VIDEO: Kawhi Leonard wins first Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP award

Leonard scored 30 points and hit eight 3-pointers to lead Team LeBron to a 157-155 victory

BC Ferries sailings filling up Family Day Monday

More than 20 sailings added between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen for long weekend

Amtrak warns of delays as railways from Seattle to B.C. blocked by Wet’suwet’en supporters

Coastal GasLink said it’s signed benefits agreements with all 20 elected band councils along pipeline route

Federal emergency group meets on pipeline protests as rail blockades continue

There’s mounting political pressure for Trudeau to put an end to the blockades

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Henrique scores 2 as Ducks soar past Canucks 5-1

Vancouver tumbles out of top spot in Pacific Division

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

B.C. VIEWS: Inaction on pipeline protests not a viable response

Columnist Frank Bucholtz on how the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute got so bad

Most Read