(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

Milestone RCMP Cops For Kids fundraiser ride going virtual

You can join and help RCMP raise funds for families and possibly win 20th anniversary cycling shirt

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

Haze over Okanagan and Shuswap skies may have drifted from Siberia

Few active wildifres so far this summer in B.C.

Guerrilla Gigs replacing Streetfest this summer in Revelstoke

Buy one of 30 tickets the Sunday before the Wednesday show

UPDATE: Trans-Canada Highway open to single-lane traffic west of Revelstoke due to flooding

The highway between Revelstoke and Golden is also open again

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

Coalmont woman airlifted after ATV crash

Off-road vehicle swerved to miss oncoming traffic

Summerland campground to provide COVID-safe accommodations for temporary farm-workers

The managed seasonal worker campsite will be located within a separated area of Peach Orchard Municipal Campground

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

No abandoned Seadoo found on Coldstream lake

Vernon Search and Rescue crews and RCMP unable to find reported abandoned Seadoo on Kal Lake

Kelowna high school football star, water skier, signs with University of Calgary

Isaac Athans, and his family, have a long history of success across various sports in the Okanagan, nationally

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Most Read