Province reverses latest cuts to sheriffs

Critics warn much more needed to unclog courts

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.

Just Posted

Kids help Alberni Aquarium build rockfish luminary for next exhibit

Swimming For Change takes over in time for spring break

One dead, two seriously injured in Hwy 4 crash west of Port Alberni

A man has died following a single-vehicle collision west of Port Alberni… Continue reading

Risk of ‘deadly avalanches’ leads to warning for B.C.’s south coast

Weak layer of snow on Vancouver Island, Lower Mainland could trigger an avalanche

Port Alberni council looking at nearly 4% tax increase for 2019

Policing, bridge rehabilitation and impending cruise ship visits all jostling for funding

City of Port Alberni cancels tourist train operations for 2019

Steam train to McLean Mill is out of commission for repairs; city wants to re-examine rail costs

Sell regulated heroin to curb B.C.’s overdose problem: report

B.C. Centre on Substance Use points to organized crime and money-laundering as contributing factors

Australian woman killed in avalanche while snowboarding at Whistler Blackcomb

The woman and her partner were reportedly rescued by ski patrol, but the woman died in hospital

B.C. legislature moving suspended staff controversy to outside review

Whale watching, Seattle Mariners trips billed as emergency preparedness, Speaker Darryl Plecas says

Trudeau tells Canadians to listen to clerk in SNC-Lavalin matter

Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick delivered a blunt assessment at the House of Commons justice

Mueller report looming, new attorney general in hot seat

Robert Mueller is required to produce a confidential report to pursue or decline prosecutions

Regulator’s report unlikely to settle Trans Mountain pipeline expansion battle

The Trans Mountain pipeline will remain a controversial topic both in the political ring and out

B.C. woman shares story of abuse with church officials ahead of Vatican summit

Leona Huggins was the only Canadian in the gathering ahead of a historic summit at the Vatican

Galchenyuk scores in OT as Coyotes edge Canucks 3-2

Vancouver manages single point as NHL playoff chase continues

More people signing up for compulsory vaccines

Maple Ridge mom says public tired of hearing about measles

Most Read