Court rooms in B.C. have at times closed because judges have refused to sit without sheriffs providing security.

Sheriff cuts endanger court security: union

Longer waits for trial also a threat, lawyers say

A major cut in the number of sheriffs who guard B.C.’s courts will leave the public, witnesses, judges and staff at greater risk of violence, according to their union.

The provincial government plans to reduce the hours of 52 auxiliary and part-time sheriffs, equivalent to eliminating 34 full-time positions.

“The safety of the judges, the safety of the court staff, the safety of the sheriffs and the public is compromised and at risk,” said Dean Purdy, spokesman for the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union.

“More and more gang activity and violent crimes are being dealt with in the courts,”  he said. “I think it’s only a matter of time before we see major incident occur in one of our court houses.”

The planned cut comes on top of past reductions in the ranks of sheriffs – as well as judges and other court staff – that have been blamed for lengthening waits for cases to get to trial and some of those cases being thrown out due to unacceptable delays.

Almost 100 sheriffs – nearly 20 per cent of the workforce – have been lost to attrition during a four-year hiring freeze, mainly as sheriffs move on to higher-paying law enforcement jobs.

Judges have increasingly refused to run their courts in some parts of B.C. when there’s no deputy sheriff available to provide security.

Purdy said the downtown Vancouver trial of the Okanagan-based Greeks organized crime group is proceeding at the high-security court room built for the Air India trial, but full safety procedures are not in effect.

“There’s no search gates set up,” he said. “I’m almost certain that’s due to a lack of staffing.”

Purdy predicts the new cuts will cause more court date cancellations and fuel further delays in the courts.

Court rooms have sometimes been closed in Kelowna, Kamloops, Victoria, Nanaimo and parts of the Lower Mainland in recent months due to the lack of sheriffs.

Judges have increasingly spoken out about the shortage, saying there’s potential for volatile or dangerous situations to erupt in court without security.

Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. president Azool Jaffer-Jeraj said the shortage of sheriffs and judges causes a ripple effect through the system.

“Recent courtroom closures were caused by a shortage of sheriffs and this will only get worse as staffing cuts cause harm throughout the province,” he said.

“Courtrooms should not be empty when there is a backlog of cases to be processed,” Jaffer-Jeraj said. “It erodes justice.”

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

“Our number one priority remains the safety and security of our courtrooms and our court facilities, but we are also living within a budget,” Attorney-General Barry Penner said in the legislature June 1, under questioning from the NDP.

Just Posted

City of Victoria to hold formal safety review after man was left hanging from raised bridge

More and more people seen ignoring safety measurements in place, city staff say

Active police incident in Langford prompts police to request nearby residents stay inside

West Shore RCMP ask public to avoid Station Avenue and Peatt Road area

Nanaimo man wanted Canada-wide after walking away from Victoria halfway house

Warrant issued for Jesse Goodale, convicted of aggravated assault

Sixties Scoop settlement tour stops in Victoria

The information session takes place on July 24 at the Sandman Hotel

Victoria Police issue warning after man left dangling from raised Johnson Street Bridge

A man bypassed safety measures and became stranded as the bridge lifted

VIDEO: Missing teens named as suspects in three northern B.C. killings

Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky are wanted in the deaths of Lucas Fowler, Chynna Deese, unknown man

POLL: Do you use a food delivery app?

With modern life becoming more hectic with each passing day and so… Continue reading

Vancouver Island teacher suspended for professional misconduct

Grade 8 shop teacher admits to use of vulgar language and profanities toward students, parents

Northern B.C. double homicide, suspicious death: A timeline of what we know

Two teens from Port Alberni are now wanted Canada-wide in connection to the three deaths

B.C. wine industry legend Harry McWatters dies

Among his accomplishments, McWatters founded the province’s first estate winery, Sumac Ridge Estate

Provincial health body refuses to release full findings of cancer triage system audit

Information and Privacy Commissioner asked to review redactions

Southern resident killer whale died of blunt trauma, likely from ship

J34 was found more than two years ago near Sechelt, but the necropsy findings have now been released

B.C. rail crossing death highlights risks for people in wheelchairs: watchdog

Transportation Safety Board points to ‘persistent risks faced by persons using assistive devices’

B.C. teens wanted in double homicide, suspicious death spotted in Manitoba

Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky were thought to have been seen in the Gillam area

Most Read