Rave Radio: Offline (0/0)
Email: Password:
News (Media Awareness Project) - CN BC: Column: Court Complains Of Justice Delayed
Title:CN BC: Column: Court Complains Of Justice Delayed
Published On:2012-01-23
Source:Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Fetched On:2012-01-25 06:00:41

The B. C. Court of Appeal has underscored the lack of government
funded resources for the Provincial Court in a decision upholding the
dismissal of charges against two accused cocaine traffickers.

Quoting an earlier ruling by the high bench, the justices added their
voices to the chorus decrying the crisis in the legal system saying,
"the protectors of the public interest have failed to live up to the
standard expected of them." The panel backed B.C. Supreme Court
Justice Peter Leask's decision to stay the serious charges because it
took more than five years for the men to reach trial - 62.5 months.

Even though it involved the complicated prosecution of a $500,000,
20-kilogram shipment of the drug, Justice Leask was appalled at the
lengthy delay and so were the appellate judges.

"I am mindful of the struggle the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court
has described in his effort to stretch dwindling resources in the face
of an increasing workload," Justice Catherine Ryan, supported by
colleagues Mary Saunders and Peter Lowry, wrote in her reasons for
judgment, released Jan. 10.

"While its complement of judges has declined, the Provincial Court
has, through rule changes and the implementation of a judicial case
management system, attempted to reduce delays in its court. This
appeal demonstrates that these prudent measures were insufficient to
address the problems this case presented."

In the unanimous judgment, the court said the difficulties the case
presented were "significantly com-pounded by the paucity of judicial

"The leading motif running through-out the discussions [among the
lawyers and trial judge] is not the unavailability of counsel, but
rather the inability of the court to find any time, let alone blocks
of time beyond two-week segments, to carry on with the trial.
Allusions to scarcity of institutional resources emerge early in these

The men were charged in late 2004 but there were pre-trial
applications and proceedings. Throughout, the lack of court resources
hindered progress. At one point in January 2008, the trial judge
complained he was so overworked and his colleagues on the bench so
overloaded, they were "quadruple" booking courtrooms.

The delays piled up as the judge and lawyers failed to find an
available courtroom.

Scheduling delays accounted for more than half the wasted time - 46
months! In September 2008, the first judge fell ill and a new judge
was appointed - which meant proceedings had to begin over again.

"On Nov. 12, 2008, the Crown did the only sensible thing it could do
in face of the countless delays already encountered in the Provincial
Court," Justice Ryan wrote.

"It filed a direct indictment in the Supreme Court of B.C."

But Justice Leask stayed the charges on April 23, 2009.

The prosecutors appealed; they lost. "Perhaps the most disturbing
aspect of this case," Appeal Justice Ryan concluded, "is that . it was
impossible to reschedule the trial so that it could take place
continuously. Instead, the parties staggered through it in bits and
pieces .... Even after the trial judge expressed her exasperation in
January 2008 with the stunted way in which the trial was proceeding,
counsel were only able to obtain six weeks of time starting in
November 2008 to carry on in two-week segments until January 2009. .
It is hardly a sensible use of time to conduct a trial in a piecemeal fashion."

Sadly, the situation is only worsening. The latest estimate from the
Provincial Court is that more than 2,500 cases are in jeopardy because
they have dragged on too long.

And job action by defence lawyers unhappy with the underfunding of
legal aid exacerbates the backlog.

Details of the judgment can be viewed at
courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/CA/12/00/2012BCCA0007. htm and
courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/ CA/12/00/2012BCCA0008cor1.htm
Member Comments
No member comments available...