Shovels in the ground mark the start of expanding British Columbia’s busiest provincial court location.
The $33.5-million expansion project will increase access to justice and is expected to be complete by early 2018. Once built, the new courthouse will:
- Add three courtrooms and two hearing rooms to the existing 14 courtrooms in the provincial courthouse.
- Feature technology that can reduce the length and cost of trials through advanced evidence presentation and touch-screen capabilities.
- Provide a wheelchair-accessible witness box and jury box.
- Allow for remote appearance of participants through an integrated videoconference system.
Located in one of British Columbia’s fastest-growing regions, Surrey’s courthouse has the largest criminal caseload in the province. Four out of every five new cases opened are in criminal court. Surrey’s courthouse also has the second-highest volume of provincial civil small claims cases.
The total project budget of $33.5 million includes $27 million in construction costs. The remainder accounts for design fees (architectural, mechanical, electrical and security) as well as furniture, fittings and municipal fees.
Also announced at the event were details of the new Surrey Crown counsel, part of government’s recent $23-million boost to expand B.C.’s Guns and Gangs Strategy. The funding will add two full-time prosecutors and a paralegal in the Surrey Crown Counsel Office dedicated to prioritizing alleged offenders with links to guns and gangs.
Amrik Virk, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services –
“With the B.C. government’s $33.5-million investment, this is a major expansion to the Surrey courthouse that will increase access to justice for British Columbians. Cases will be heard more expediently and bad guys will be put behind bars in a more timely fashion.”
Suzanne Anton, Attorney General and Minister of Justice –
“We are committed to increasing court capacity to enhance access to justice in British Columbia and in the fast-growing Lower Fraser Valley region. The commitment to expand the Surrey courthouse complements our announced increase in Crown prosecutors, who will be dedicated to prioritizing offenders with links to guns and gangs.”
- The Lower Fraser Valley Court Strategy identifies the most effective way to address courtroom pressures based on demographic and court demand analysis over the next 20 years.
- With 89 court locations throughout the province, 96% of British Columbians live within an hour of a staffed court location.
- Priority projects are expansion of the Surrey Courthouse and construction of a new courthouse in Abbotsford.
- The dedicated Crown counsel in Surrey will own a file from bail to trial to build expertise in these cases and work closely with police to offer pre-charge advice and help with judicial applications to gather evidence. When police consult with the Crown on a case, it gives Crown familiarity with the file and in some cases, may result in a more timely charge assessment and prosecution.
Lower Fraser Valley Regional Plan Court Capacity Expansion: http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/public/courts/LFVCourtsCapacityExpansionProject.pdf