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.

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

Just Posted

View Royal fire chief calls for realistic solutions to ‘mess’ at Thetis Lake

Emergency crews harassed while extinguishing brush fire, rescuing drunk 15-year-old during long weekend calls

Greater Victoria woman goes on gratitude mission to thank first responders

Jen Klein fainted while driving and crashed on Pat Bay Highway in 2019

Non-venomous ball python missing in Vic West

Snake was reported missing to Victoria police Tuesday morning

Crews respond to medical incident on West Saanich Road

Incident appears to be cleared, witnesses say

B.C. records 146 new COVID-19 cases through long weekend

More that 28 people tested positive for the virus each day since Friday

Canucks tame Minnesota Wild 4-3 to even NHL qualifying series

J.T. Miller leads Vancouver with goal and an assist

COVID-19 vaccine efforts provide hope but no silver bullet to stop pandemic: Tam

There are more than two dozen vaccines for COVID-19 in clinical trials around the world

Two people die in propane heated outdoor shower near Princeton

Couple was attending a long weekend gathering

Study shines light on what makes LGBTQ+ youth feel safe in a community

The study goes beyond looking at school or family supports

Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September

B.C. to allow customers to buy cannabis online for in-store pickup at private shops

Age verification will still be required inside the store

30% of British Columbians would ‘wait and see’ before taking COVID vaccine: poll

Some are concerned about side effects, while others don’t think the virus is a big deal

Most Read