Attorney General Shirley Bond sounds like a new arrival to BC as she presents another Liberal plan to improve court administration. Current backlogs result in serious charges not laid, stayed, thrown out or negotiated down to offences with meaningless consequences.
In Britain, the BBC reported that The National Audit Office found victims and witnesses faced long delays in criminal trials, with about half of all cases in Surrey, Sussex, London and the Thames Valley taking four months to begin.
The average in Britain for all defendants in indictable offences (the most serious) is noted in this U.K. government report:
“In June 2011, the average time between the date an offence was committed and the date the defendant’s case was completed in the magistrates’ courts for all indictable cases was 98 days. This represents a decrease compared to June 2010 (106 days). However, prior to June 2011, the average offence-to-completion time had been on a generally flat trend since mid-2008.”
By comparison, British Columbia prosecutors took six months to lay the first charges against people involved in the June 2011 Stanley Cup riot. Today, 16 months after the event, five more charges were laid. Prosecutors expect more charges will be laid, eventually. Trials, if ever held, will be months, perhaps, years from now.
Responsible for almost 12 years of legal system mismanagement, BC Liberals have no credibility in claiming intention to address chronic failures within the legal system. They repeatedly promised improvements but only made the situation worse. Legal bureaucrats and failed politicians (names like Plant, Oppal and Seckel) departed with problems left unsolved but their briefcases stuffed with cash and IOU’s. Shirley Bond and Mike de Jong will soon do the same.
We could argue that focusing the courts in large cities and tolerating, even encouraging, constant delays, serves only the large firms of urban dwelling lawyers. By sheer coincidence, or not, these are the ones that write large cheques to the BC Liberal Party while the taxpayers write larger cheques back to the law firms.
The Campbell/Clark government closed courthouses in Burnaby, Castlegar, Chase, Chetwynd, Creston, Delta, Fernie, Grand Forks, Hope, Houston, Invermere, Kimberley, Kitimat, Lillooet, Lytton, Maple Ridge, Merritt, Oliver, 100 Mile House, Parksville, Princeton, Revelstoke, Squamish and Vanderhoof.
They closed jails: Terrace Community Correctional Centre, Rayleigh Correctional Centre, Chilliwack Community Correctional Centre, Mount Thurston Correctional Centre – including Chilliwack, New Haven Correctional Centre, Stave Lake Correctional Centre, Alouette River Correctional Centre, Vancouver Pre-trial Correctional Centre, and Hutda Lake Correctional Centre.
They made dramatic cuts to legal aid budgets and defunded diversion programs.
These people are like car repair scam artists that tinkered endlessly with the engine, swapped the transmission, installed new tires, re-chromed the bumpers and slapped Bondo on the fenders. Now they want you to pay more for a paint job. They’re getting rich while you have a sad old jalopy in your driveway, one that works occasionally but not well and always needs more repair.
Take a quick spin through the news archives and find many examples where Liberals have been asked to recognize problems or where they’ve claimed to be addressing them.
In February 2002, a group promoting increased mediation as a way of unclogging the system, tried to meet with Geoff Plant. The BC Liberal Attorney General snubbed the group and made no response, according to Peter Allik-Petersenn, a family law lawyer in Kamloops.
In April 2002, in a confidential letter written on behalf of 146 provincial court judges, Geoff Plant, the Attorney-General of British Columbia, was told the province’s judiciary no longer had confidence in him.
In May 2002, more than 1,000 BC lawyers passed a vote of non-confidence in the province’s attorney general because of cuts to court administration and legal aid funding.
In the first Liberal term, a senior police officer said “British Columbia needs an integrated prosecuting team to combat increasingly complex organized crime.” Instead, BC Liberals directed the illegal gambling team funded by the province should focus on mid-level rather than high level targets. It was more convenient to pretend that organized crime did not exist.
In 2004, Attorney General Geoff Plant said BC’s civil justice system is complicated, costly and out of reach for the average citizen and needs change. He said the government had established a nine-member working group to look at civil justice reform.
“For many ordinary British Columbians our superior courts are coming close to….a point where they are nearly, and perhaps tragically, irrelevant.”
In 2005, Attorney General Wally Oppal said that people have no faith in the current system. “What we are doing now is not working,” he said. In 2008, he had no solution, just resignation, saying “Public confidence in Canada’s justice system is at an all-time low.”