Holding traffic court at school sites and retired judges returning to service are two of several recent actions taken by government and the provincial court to help reduce pandemic-related backlogs and delays.
Government has appointed six new provincial court judges, including the reappointment of three retired, senior provincial court judges who have agreed to return to service in the provincial court, to help reduce backlogs.
“These formerly retired judges returning to serve the public will bring with them extensive experience to support newer judges and move quickly through the caseload that has accumulated as a result of pandemic-related adjournments,” said David Eby, Attorney General. “We are very grateful that they and three new judges are stepping up to assist us in managing this backlog.”
As of July 13, 2020, the provincial court began hearing some matters commenced by a violation ticket (including motor vehicle violation tickets) at locations outside of the usual provincial courthouses in British Columbia. The large number of people who attend traffic court and the number of cases that are heard required larger sites to permit social distancing requirements to be met. With the assistance of the Court Services Branch and B.C. Sheriff Services, traffic court hearings are now proceeding at staggered times at alternative locations, including the University of Victoria, the University of the Fraser Valley, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and some secondary schools throughout the province. In other locations, such as Kelowna and Fort St. John, these hearings are occurring on evenings and weekends when there are fewer people in the courthouses.
“The public health measures that have restricted access to physical courtrooms during the past few months have created a tremendous challenge for the judiciary, the legal profession and court services staff,” Eby said. “Using non-traditional locations for hearings, exploring ways for remote hearings and diversion out of court, and making technology more available – including basic technology like conference-style phones and high-speed internet – are all helping us support our judges to do the job they are constitutionally required to do.”
B.C.’s courts are now using enhanced cleaning, new courtroom layouts, physical distancing protocols and verbal health screening prior to entry.
“I am grateful to the judiciary, our Court Services Branch, the B.C. Sheriff Services, registry staff and the cleaning teams for their vital roles in protecting the safety of court users and ensuring the smooth running of court operations during this unusual time,” Eby said. “In addition to their regular security and escort duties, they have risen to the unique challenges of this pandemic and are key to keeping our courts open and operating as efficiently as possible.”
For more information on B.C.’s courts: https://www.bccourts.ca/