More criminal trials delayed by lack of sheriffs

'Desperate' situation puts justice at risk: lawyer

Sheriffs provide security and ensure decorum in court rooms and escort prisoners who are being held in custody.

A North Vancouver home invasion case is the latest trial to be delayed due to a shortage of sheriffs that has intensified after cutbacks took effect this month.

The case against Duck Yoon was suspended June 8 by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Arnold-Bailey, who ruled the trial in the downtown Vancouver law courts won’t proceed until sheriffs are available to ensure security.

Richard Fowler, one of the lawyers in the case and a spokesman for the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C., called it further evidence courthouse budget cuts are rippling throughout the justice system.

“This is a desperate and devastating situation,” he said. “Things have to change immediately. Justice and the people of the province are suffering severe harm by this sad state of affairs.”

The provincial government cut the hours of 52 auxiliary and part-time sheriffs this month, equivalent to eliminating 34 full-time positions. That’s on top of the loss of nearly 100 sheriffs – almost 20 per cent of the workforce – by attrition over a four-year hiring freeze.

Because of the backlog in B.C.’s court system, suspending and rescheduling a trial can mean a delay of several months to a year – potentially putting cases at risk of being thrown out if the eventual wait is found to violate the accused’s right to be tried in a reasonable time.

Other cases have been postponed in recent months in Richmond, Victoria, Nanaimo and the Okanagan, according to the union representing sheriffs.

Four additional criminal cases were postponed Wednesday in Vancouver Provincial Court at 222 Main Street, said Dean Purdy of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union.

“Deputy sheriffs couldn’t be provided for security, so the judges have put all those trials off as well,” he said.

“We’re pleased to see judges are stepping up and refusing to run their court rooms in that manner because it’s unsafe.”

The Attorney General’s ministry has said courthouse safety and security is a top priority but the deployment of sheriffs is subject to budget restraints.

February’s provincial budget approved cuts totaling $14.5 million for court services, prosecution services and the judiciary, despite a 2010 report from provincial court judges warning more than 2,000 criminal cases are at risk of being quashed due to excessive delays.

B.C. has 12 per cent fewer provincial court judges than in 2005 despite rising caseloads and complexities.

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PHOTOS: The day 28,000 Lollapalooza-goers rocked Cloverdale in 1994

Fans share memories of drugs, bad Smashing Pumpkins, Nick Cave walk-off and ‘letdown’ of Surrey date

Surrey veteran feels pinch from COVID-19 after cancelled surgery

Caught between two countries, and low income, soldier feels he’s been forgotten

Surrey parents, students navigate remote learning during COVID-19

The Surrey school district teachers are slowly rolling out plans for new way of educating

Two people fined for trying to re-sell N95 and surgical masks in Delta

Police confiscated over 5,000 masks and are working with Fraser Health to see them put to good use

Peace Arch News ad sparks discussion about value of community newspapers

White Rock resident hopes front-page note shines light on revenue loss during COVID-19 crisis

VIDEO: ‘Used gloves and masks go in the garbage,’ says irked B.C. mayor

Health officials have said single-use gloves won’t do much to curb the spread of COVID-19

Sex workers face new risks during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Desperation has kicked in’ for vulnerable, undocumented workers unable to access help

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

COVID-19: Postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Vancouver man, 21, charged after mother found dead in Squamish home

Ryan Grantham, 21, has been charged with second-degree murder

Fraser Valley’s tulips fields off limits to visitors due to COVID-19

Abbotsford and Chilliwack tulip farmers have announced their festival season won’t go ahead

Don’t stop going to the doctor, just do it virtually: B.C. association

Doctors encourage patients to access telephone, online visits

Most Read