(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

Just Posted

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

‘Monkey Beach’ supernatural film adaptation premiers at VIFF

Based on Kitamaat author Eden Robinson’s debut, mystical novel

COVID-19 cases grow to 13 at B.C. First Nation near Fort St. James

“This is very serious,” says Nak’azdli Whut’en Chief

Ecosocialists nominate candidate for Stikine

Edward Quinlan is the new party’s regional director for Skeena and Bulkley Valley regions

Skeena Voices | Former fighter goes toe to toe with Parkinson’s

Valerie Zilinski runs Strong and Steady Fitness classes for people living with Parkinson’s

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Money laundering inquiry delayed over of B.C. election: commissioner

Austin Cullen says the hearings will start again on Oct. 26

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

Most Read