(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

Princeton ATV rider slapped with numerous charges after complaint of near miss on the KVR

‘I would never defend actions like that’ - Ed Vermette, Princeton ATV Club president

Anarchist Mountain Fire Department extinguishes ‘flaming river’ on Highway 3

Blaze caused by truck that caught fire and leaked diesel across the road

Lower Similkameen Indian Band closes beach near Cawston to non-band members

The COVID-19 crisis “has not gone away” and “remains an ever present threat” says the LSIB

Morning Start: Dogs can smell cancer

Your morning start for Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Shoppers Drug Mart launches in-store virtual service at several B.C. stores

The service is now available in 12 rural B.C. communities and will expand province-wide in August

84-year-old Okanagan resident finishes 12,000-piece puzzle

Willie Tribiger started the puzzle in 2013, completing it in six and a half years

Aces aplenty at Okanagan golf course

Vernon Golf and Country Club has 14 recorded holes-in-one since April 30

Fraser Valley woman complains of violent RCMP takedown during wellness check

Mounties respond that she was not co-operating during Mental Health Act apprehension

B.C. sees 12 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths

Three outbreaks exist in health-care settings

Lost dog swims Columbia River multiple times searching for home

The dog was missing from his Castlegar home for three days.

Booze on beach extended through summer in Penticton

Pilot project will stay in place until Oct. 15

Sad ending in case of missing Okanagan senior

Body of Vernon man Wayne Orser found floating in Okanagan Lake Tuesday, July 7

COVID-19: B.C. promotes video-activated services card

Mobile app allows easier video identity verification

ICBC to resume road tests in July with priority for rebookings, health-care workers

Tests have been on hold for four months due to COVID-19

Most Read