The number of cases over 18 months old before B.C. Provincial Court has climbed 16 per cent to 2

Congested courts put more cases at risk

Worsening backlog may set more accused free

More than half of all B.C. Provincial Court cases have been stuck in the system for at least a year and a growing number are at risk of being thrown out as a result.

Those are among the findings of a new update to the B.C. Provincial Court’s Justice Delayed report, which originally warned of serious delays in the system last fall.

The update shows there were 2,371 adult criminal cases before the courts for more than 18 months as of March 31– a 16 per cent increase from 2,038 a year earlier.

Criminal cases 12 to 18 months old climbed 18 per cent over the same period from 4,856 to 5,744.

Together, the two categories make up just over half of the court’s entire caseload.

Judges are bound by Supreme Court of Canada rulings on how long cases can drag on and trials are being quashed over unacceptable delays of as little as 14 months, depending on the circumstances.

The average delay across B.C. for a two-day criminal trial in March was 10.6 months, slightly worse than nine months earlier, although the stats show some improvement in the waits for child protection hearings, small claims trials and family law trials.

But the numbers vary considerably depending on the court house.

Surrey remains the worst for adult criminal cases, with a 16-month wait for a two-day trial.

Fort St. John, Chilliwack, Terrace, Vancouver (Main Street), Kelowna and Vernon were all booking two-day criminal trials at least 13 months away.

The longest delays for child protection hearings (13 to 15 months) were in Cranbrook, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Terrace, while delays of 14 to 15 months were being recorded for family trials in Fort St. John, Cranbrook, Abbotsford and Chilliwack.

The original report recommended B.C. move to restore the number of Provincial Court judges from 126.3 full-time equivalents (FTEs) in September 2010 to the 2005 level of 143.6.

While a few new judges have been hired since the initial report, others have retired, been promoted to B.C. Supreme Court or opted to start to cut their hours to part-time.

As a result, the number of judges is now 125.1 FTEs as of the end of June, about 15 per cent fewer than in 2005 despite more cases of greater complexity.

The province passed a budget this spring requiring further cuts to court staffing.

Just Posted

BM&TS show ‘a tale as old as time’

The theatre group produced Beauty and the Beast.

Video: MP hears pot, pipeline and politics concerns

South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP hosts town hall forum in Penticton

Needles killer frightened many in our town: BC author

Roy Bugera disrupted life in a quiet Vancouver Island village before moving to Arrow Lakes

RCMP investigate stabbing incident

Injuries were non-life threatening, RCMP report

Health Minister says coming changes will make difference in rural communities.

“As a government, Premier Horgan is committed to improving the ambulance service.”

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Anti-pipeline protestors block Kinder Morgan tanker near Seattle

Protest was spurred on by the 28 anti-Kinder Morgan activists arrested in Burnaby

Some surprises in new book about B.C. labour movement

“On the Line” charts history of the union movement back to the 1800s

B.C. cyclist races to first win of the season in New Zealand

Casey Brown captures Enduro title by more than two minutes at Crankworx Rotorua

Notorious Russian troll farm also took swipes at Canadian targets

Targets included oil infrastructure and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Cirque du Soleil aerialist dies after fall during Florida show

Longtime performer fell while performing in VOLTA

Canada earns second Paralympic Games silver in 20 years

Held 1-0 lead in para hockey game from 12:06 of first to dying seconds of third and lost in overtime

LETTERS: Two views of oil pipeline protests

U.S. and other petroleum-rich countries aren’t cutting production

Most Read