Court delays lead judges to toss 109 cases in 2011
Published Monday, January 9, 2012 7:32PM PST
Provincial court judges in B.C. tossed out 109 cases last year because the accused waited too long to get to trial.
That figure is almost double the number of cases stayed in 2010 and came at a time when there were 10,000 fewer cases.
The B.C. government figures substantiate complaints about a shortage of resources from several provincial court judges' rulings and a report released from the office of Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree titled Justice Delayed.
The report, released last September, said as many as 18 per cent of the cases going through the provincial court system have been pending for more than 18 months because of lack of resources in the court.
In response to the figures, Attorney General Shirley Bond said in a statement the government has appointed 14 new judges since 2010.
However, a statement from the Office of the Chief Judge said despite those appointments, the provincial court still has 18 fewer judges than it did in 2005.
The Chief Judge's report said the court is unable to keep pace with new cases being presented to it.
"The current inventory of uncompleted cases is growing markedly, as is the delay for all case types other than youth prosecutions," the report stated.
"Increasingly, the court is failing to meet its legal obligations to provide timely access to justice."
Provincial government figures show 109 cases were stayed last year, compared to 56 in 2010.
In 2011, 98,354 adult and youth criminal cases went through the system, down from the 108,105 in 2010.
Bond said the government is streamlining procedures and using new technologies to ensure hearings are reserved for the most serious offences.
"I do agree that any delays or stays of proceeding are not ideal, but I should note that these can be related to many factors, including the complexity and volume of evidence introduced in individual cases," she said.
In one scathing judgment released last November, Associate Chief Judge Michael Brecknell said he was forced to allow a convicted cocaine dealer to walk away because his legal process took almost four years.
Brecknell wrote that the fact he had to release an "unrepentant drug dealer" because the judicial system couldn't accommodate his trial should alarm the community.
"The Court constantly strives to serve the public interest in the administration of justice in the face of dwindling resources and a burgeoning case load. Only government can re-establish the necessary and appropriate level of judicial and support resources," he wrote.
Brecknell warned that without those resources the court could be overwhelmed with applications to stay trials because the charges took too long to get to court.