B.C. judge rips government for court delays – Yahoo! Canada News

VANCOUVER (CBC) – B.C.’s provincial court system is facing a “dire” shortage of judges, despite the government’s recent appointment of five people to the bench, according to one judge.

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In a highly critical ruling in October, Prince Rupert Judge Michael Brecknell stayed two impaired driving charges against a man who endured more than a three-year delay in his case before coming to trial.

In his written decision, Brecknell said the man’s charter right to be tried within a reasonable time had been violated.

The judge then made repeated reference to a longstanding “lack of adequate judicial resources” in B.C.

In Surrey alone, it would take three judges two years, working full time, to handle the criminal case backlog, Brecknell said.

He also pointed to unfilled bench vacancies in Sechelt, Penticton, Kamloops and other regions.

“The failure of the government to act has now imposed a crisis upon the Cariboo Northeast District,” Brecknell wrote.

He said more than 30,000 traffic tickets await trial dates and nothing has been done to address nearly 16,000 criminal cases in the province that are older than six months.

B.C.’s attorney general appointed five new judges this September, in part responding to calls from judges who said the court backlog had reached a crisis point. but in his ruling, Brecknell said those appointments only address past problems.

“Even with the recent appointment of five new provincial court judges in September of 2010, the dire situation of the provincial court has not been addressed,” he wrote.

“Until the recent September 2010 appointments, British Columbia was the only province in Canada to suffer a reduction, 17.35 per cent, in its judicial complement over the years 2005 to 2010.

“The ratio of police officers to provincial court judges has gone up from 50 to one in 2000 to 73 to one in 2010. The office of Crown counsel has as well increased their full-time equivalents from 408 in 2005 to 459 in 2010,” he said in his decision.

It is not the first instance of impaired driving charges being stayed due to judicial backlogs, said Bob Rorison, Vancouver president of Mothers against Drunk Driving.

“My major concern is that somebody’s going to get off a drunk-driving charge,” Rorison said. “What other criminal charges have been able to be stayed because of delays in the court?”

B.C. judge rips government for court delays – Yahoo! Canada News


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