(Black Press Media files)

COVID forces changes as B.C. provincial courts reopen for trials

The provincial court has now set out a series of standards to cautiously reopen

Provincial court trials in British Columbia will resume July 6 with numerous changes not only for health and safety reasons amid COVID-19, but to accelerate the court process.

The provincial court hasn’t closed completely during the pandemic. Urgent and essential matters were heard immediately and then proceedings were expanded for hundreds of hearings over the phone or via videoconference.

The provincial court has now set out a series of standards to cautiously reopen while taking health and safety protocols to minimize transmission of the virus at provincial courthouses around the province.

A message from Chief Judge Melissa Gillespie says the next step is to reduce in-person appearances and it will roll out technology for bail hearings that would allow an accused to attend a bail hearing at local police stations or correctional centres.

READ MORE: Supreme Court decision ‘good news’ for minority-language communities: Trudeau

The court says in a statement that since the Supreme Court of Canada set time limits on criminal trials, only four per cent of those files actually made it to trial, while the remainder clog up the system.

The statement says the inefficiencies were amplified by the pandemic and it is now implementing mandatory pre-trial conferences to reduce the number of cases going to trial and to ensure there’s an accurate estimate on the length of time the case will take to get to trial.

“The court is committed to ensuring the fair, efficient and timely resolution of criminal files and to upholding the accused’s right to be tried within a reasonable time,” the statement says. “Using pre-trial conferences to help reduce day-of-trial-collapse rates and trial continuations is an important part of that commitment.”

READ MORE: ‘More and more claims:’ Pandemic lawsuits could tie up courts for years

It says over three quarters of all criminal files set for trial in provincial court collapsed on the planned trial date because of guilty pleas, stays of proceedings, bench warrants or adjournments.

“These statistics reveal that too many criminal files are set for trial and do not proceed causing significant scheduling difficulties and inefficient use of court time,” the statement says.

Gillespie says the court will continue to find new ways to enhance access to justice so people can resolve their legal issues or have their day in court — whether in a virtual hearing room on in-person.

“People in B.C. are entitled to expect that their courts are open, there is timely access to justice, and the rule of law is upheld. They are also entitled to know that these will be safe courts.”

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Cops and CourtsCoronavirus

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

Comments are closed

Just Posted

After slow start, Summerland sees more tourism activity

Majority of visitors come from within British Columbia

Deer and moose die after being chased by dogs in Naramata

BC conservation officers are asking the public to control their pets

Two facing charges after RCMP search Penticton motel, find firearms, drug-trafficking related items

Samuel Prescott-Perreault, 32 years old, and 27-year-old Paige Rist are facing charges

Morning Start: There are over 200 dead bodies on Mount Everest

Your morning start for Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Booze on beach extended through summer in Penticton

Pilot project will stay in place until Oct. 15

The pandemic is widening Canada’s workplace gender gap

Gender pay gap is incentivizing fathers to work while mothers watch children, a new B.C. study has found

Portraits celebrating Syilx culture now on display at Kelowna International Airport

Sheldon Pierre Louis’ art will be on display at YLW from now until July 2021

3 people dead in Prince George motel fire

Fire personnel believe the blaze was suspicious although investigation in early stages

Man found dead on Okanagan trail identified as Hollywood actor

GoFundMe campaign launched for man found dead at summit of Spion Kop

B.C. sets terms to review police, mental health, race relations

MLAs to recommend Police Act changes by May 2021

Trail RCMP officer accused of criminal harassment, forcible entry

BCPS: The charges against Murchie date between 2017 and 2020

LETTER: Customer service builds strong support

Company showed positive attitude and swift response

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Ghost gear accounts for up to 70 per cent of all macro-plastics in the ocean by weight

Most Read