EDITORIAL:Time to upgrade our courthouse

Penticton is a big enough city that it is time for the courthouse upgrades rather than move trials to Kelowna.

When a crime is alleged to have been committed in a community then is should be resolved within that community. Not so much the case when it comes to the Penticton Courthouse.

The trial for accused murderers Grace and Pierre Robotti is not the first time a case of importance to many within our boundaries has shifted to another community because of a concern for safety within the Penticton Courthouse. If nothing changes, it will not be the last.

Just a few years ago, a murder trial was moved to Kelowna for the same reasons. Putting family members and friends of the victim in the horrible position of having to seek time off work to travel back and forth to another community for the weeks-long trial. The community at large should also be able to hear evidence presented for themselves.

How about the civilian witnesses that now have to shift schedules to travel out of town? Or, what about the RCMP officers costs in travelling time and taking away from their police work?.At what point does it become more costly to change the venue than just do the upgrades necessary?

It is fully understandable that sheriffs, judges and counsel have concerns in a courthouse that is in need of safety upgrades. They are legitimate and we have seen them first-hand.

A few years ago a member of the gallery yelled obscenities at a person in the prisoners box, after there was a heated exchange of words where only a chain link fence separated the public from the prisoner that was being moved to the sheriff’s transport vehicle. This had nothing to do with the sheriff’s level of professionalism, but was all about the upgrades needed in the courthouse.

While a change of venue where a fair and impartial jury may not be possible is a fair reason to move, lack of sufficient safety should not be.

Penticton is a big enough city that it is time for the courthouse upgrades based on the interests of justice to all parties and the community it serves.