Penticton’s courthouse improved its time-to-trial statistics last year, according to a B.C. provincial court report, but still needs some work to line up with the provincial benchmarks. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Time-to-trial stats improve, but still above provincial standards

On average, charges take eight months to get to trial in Penticton, above the provincial benchmarks

As time-to-trial statistics remain well above the benchmark set by the provincial court, but an Okanagan lawyer said a new courtroom would go a long way to get those numbers in line.

The semi-annual time-to-trial report, published on the provincial courts website, shows average statistics for the time it takes for trials of various lengths to go before a judge.

Last year, according to data running up to Sept. 30, 2017, the time it took for criminal matters to make the trial stage in Penticton dropped across the board, and only for trials shorter than two days did the courthouse make the top-10 list, at an average of eight months to trial.

Related: Elphicke could go free on time-to-trial rule

That was a drop from nine months the year prior, when it was named the third longest time-to-trial in the province, according to the September 2016 report, while neither Vernon nor Kelowna’s courthouses made the list.

But eight months is still above the benchmark the B.C. courts have set for a standard wait time for trial, at six months for a trial of less than two days.

In terms of two- to four-day trial lengths, Penticton fell below the top-10 list, with a typical wait lasting eight months, compared to nine the year before, when it ranked number seven in the province. But that, too, is still above the benchmark, at seven months for two- to four-day trials.

That compares with Kelowna’s and Vernon’s courthouses, both of which fell within the benchmark on all criminal trial lengths.

Speaking from his own experience, Penticton lawyer Michael Welsh said part of the improvement might be some of the work of the judicial case manager.

Related: Montreal cop who handled crime scene ‘outraged’ after charge stayed over delays

“The judicial case manager we have here is very efficient and good at trying to make time or find time, move judges around to get things heard,” he said.

Moving forward, Welsh added since the report’s September closing date, Penticton’s courthouse has had some additional help, as the B.C. provincial court added Judge Michelle Daneliuk to the bench in September.

Though her arrival comes just prior to senior Judge Gale Sinclair’s departure, with his full retirement expected after spring break, Daneliuk will be considered a full-time judge, while Sinclair is a half-time equivalent.

“We currently have two-and-a-half full-time judge positions, which is better than we had for a long time,” said Welsh.

The lawyer was also quick to note that while Penticton’s trial wait times have fallen, there is still some work to do to meet the benchmark.

Related: Cut down on court delays by supporting victims of crime: ombudsman

“The problem in Penticton, really, in terms of trying to move something through more quickly, is the lack of courthouse space,” he said. “There are two provincial courtrooms and then a conference room that gets used on occasion, plus the one Supreme Court room, which sometimes the provincial court can use if it’s not otherwise being used.

“But if things get busy, especially if there’s a Supreme Court of size going on, then it can be really difficult to find room to hear all the things that need to be heard.”

Though the number of judges will be dropping back down to two full-time equivalents come spring, Welsh said he didn’t believe that would hamper progress from an additional courtroom.

“We have judges who come down from Kelowna, or elsewhere as well, from time to time, or you can set things up to have them done by video,” he said. “I’ve not really seen a situation in Penticton where a shortage of judges has been a real problem in terms of getting things moving forward. It’s more the lack of sufficient courtroom space.”

Related: Probe finds clogged courts can run smarter, faster

But time-to-trial stats still fall well below the rules set out by what’s commonly referred to as the Jordan ruling, which limited provincial court trials to 24 months between charges laid and trial.

Though there have been some challenges, Welsh acknowledged there has been a concerted effort to cut down on time-to-trial waits at the B.C. provincial courts.

“They are trying, but each courthouse has its own issues that it has to deal with.”


@dustinrgodfrey

dustin.godfrey@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Youth cyclists hit the South Okanagan roads

Over 100 youth cyclists will be competing in a series of races starting Friday

Ongoing dangers caused by flooding

Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen reminds residents of dangers posed by flooding

B.C. Interior flood risk diminishing

Snowmelt receding but rainfall impact remains a concern

Blast from the past

Ministry of Transportation shows a neat photo from Highway 3 in the South Okanagan-Similkameen

Study looking at declining mule deer population

Southern Interior mule deer project tracking deer movement and health

Vancouver Island girl scores with winning song for BC Summer Games

‘Colours’ is a perfect theme for 2018 BC Summer Games

Athlete of the week: Declen Blondin

Declen Blondin is the Penticton Western News/Canadian Tire athlete of the week

B.C. pipeline goes ahead despite scrapped Pacific Northwest LNG

NEB approves amendment for $1.4-billion natural gas North Montney Mainline Project

Update: Wildfire northwest of Kamloops jumps from 60 to 800 hectares

Ground crews and aircraft are responding to an estimated 50 hectare wildfire approximately 55 kilometers northwest of Kamloops, near the Deadman Vidette Road.

Feds limit chinook fishery to help killer whale recovery

Chinook is main food source for only 76 southern residents killer whales left

B.C. mom who died just before daughter’s wedding wanted family to be happy: twin

Ann Wittenberg was pulled into the ocean while on a surf board in Tofino last weekend

Courtenay-Alberni MP calls for lifeguards at popular surf spot near Tofino

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is defending its decision to cancel the surf guard program.

Harvey Weinstein to surrender in sex misconduct probe: officials

Would be first criminal charge against Weinstein since scores of women came forward

Most Read