PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. -- Some services of the B.C. Supreme Court will be offered in the Port Coquitlam area as the Ministry of Attorney General recognizes the rapid growth of the Lower Mainland's Tri-Cities area.

A statement from the ministry says the B.C. Supreme Court will begin sitting for civil and family matters in the Port Coquitlam courthouse starting Monday.

Three courtrooms not being used by the provincial court will be assigned to hear higher court cases involving divorce, disputes over $35,000 or other civil disputes.

Criminal jury trials will continue to be held at the New Westminster Law Courts and the Supreme Court registry will also stay in New Westminster.

The ministry says before the expansion, Tri-Cities residents had to travel to New Westminster, Abbotsford or Vancouver for Supreme Court services, making access to justice difficult, and the COVID-19 pandemic added to the strain.

The Tri-Cities is formed by the cities of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2021.