(Black Press Media files)

(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

Two teens were sent to hospital after being stabbed Saturday evening. (Shane MacKichan photo)
Two teens stabbed in Abbotsford

20-year-old man has been detained

The annual Make a Difference Sale in Abbotsford is moving online for 2021. (File photo)
Make a Difference Sale in Abbotsford goes virtual for 2021

Annual auction raises money for world hunger through Canadian Foodgrains Bank

The Bug Girl, written by seven-year-old Sophia Spencer, is being given to 500 B.C. classrooms as part of Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month. (Submitted photos)
Reading challenges part of Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month

Abbotsford-based BC Agriculture in the Classroom participates in 10th annual event

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Feb. 28

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Judith Uwamahoro is Black, approximately 4’7″ tall, 80 pounds and has short black hair and brown eyes. (Surrey RCMP handout)
UPDATED: Lower Mainland 9-year-old located after police make public plea

Judith Uwamahoro went missing Friday at around 4 p.m. in Surrey

Most Read