Province reverses latest cuts to sheriffs

Critics warn much more needed to unclog courts

Sheriffs ensure security in court and handle prisoner transfers.

Sheriffs ensure security in court and handle prisoner transfers.

The province will pay for more sheriffs to guard court rooms, reversing cuts imposed late last month that triggered a wave of trial adjournments and sparked strong criticism from judges and lawyers.

Attorney General Barry Penner said the government will restore the hours of 52 auxiliary and part-time sheriffs, which had been sharply reduced in late May, bringing back the equivalent of 34 full-time positions.

Penner ordered his staff to find more money within the ministry budget to cover more sheriffs after judges told him they were uncomfortable about the safety of courtrooms in the wake of the reductions.

Under the cuts, a roving system was in force where each court didn’t necessarily have its own sheriff but was supposed to be able to call on one quickly if needed.

“I do not want cases to be adjourned or dismissed simply because a sheriff is not physically present in a courtroom,” Penner said in a statement. “This comes at a cost. Budgets are already tight because of rising health care costs and global economic uncertainty.”

At least 23 trials were delayed this month, including a murder case and home invasion case, after judges refused to run them without sheriffs present to provide security.

Penner noted auxiliary sheriffs work on an as-requested basis and he expects their hours to continue to fluctuate.

“We’re pleased to see the hours come back,” B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union spokesman Dean Purdy said.

“But really it’s just a Band-Aid solution. Even before the judges in many locations around the province were refusing to run their trials because of the shortage of deputy sheriffs.”

A hiring freeze in effect for the last couple of years has meant B.C. courts have lost more than 100 sheriffs to attrition prior to the now-reversed cuts.

Many departing sheriffs left for other higher-paying law enforcement jobs, Purdy said.

He’s also worried Penner’s plan to find money elsewhere in the ministry means “robbing from Peter to pay Paul.”

NDP Attorney General critic Leonard Krog said the restored hours will help but the government must commit to a broader overhaul of the embattled justice system.

“This doesn’t deal with all of the other issues plaguing the justice system,” he said.

“We are still down 17 judges across the province,” Krog said. “There are still not enough prosecutors. We know the premier, riding the wave of revulsion over the Vancouver riots, has promised swift prosecution. And we know there aren’t enough prosecutors to do it.”

The provincial court has warned 2,100 alleged criminals are at risk of walking free because their cases have already dragged on so long they are at risk of being quashed due to unacceptable delay.

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

Just Posted

Ron Sivorot, business director at Kennametal’s Langford site, the Greater Victoria facility that made a component being used on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (Jake Romphf, Black Press Media)
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover using piece made at Kennametal’s Langford site

The Greater Victoria plant’s tooth blank is helping the rover’s drill collect rock cores

A provincially appointed consultant has recommended a change to the funding formula for the VicPD that will save Esquimalt a significant amount of money. (Black Press Media file photo)
Esquimalt to save a bundle on policing costs under new formula

Provincial consultant studied funding model, resource deployment for VicPD

A rockfall closed Finlayson Arm Road and West Shore Parkway on Friday (March 5) afternoon. (Twitter/BC Transportation)
UPDATED: Malahat reopens following rockfall

Section of Trans-Canada Highway was scheduled for intermittent closures today for rock scaling work

A Victoria resident was scammed out of $1,700 after a fraudster impersonated a police officer and convinced the victim to pay a non-existent fine in Bitcoin. (Unsplash)
Fraudster impersonates Victoria police officer, steals $1,700 in Bitcoin

Phone call showed up as VicPD’s non-emergency line

The Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
Tsartlip First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA revealed COVID-19 outbreak

Chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA Adam Olsen apologizes

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

Most Read