Shortage of clerks and sheriffs leads to harsh criticism from B.C. judge | National Union of Public and General Employees

Shortage of clerks and sheriffs leads to harsh criticism from B.C. judge

"We will be looking to the provincial budget in a few weeks to see if the provincial government will address the problem and adequately fund the administration of justice.” — Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President

Vancouver (04 Feb. 2016) — The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) has been raising concerns about chronic staffing shortages at B.C. courthouses. Once again, staffing shortages in Victoria courtrooms have made headlines.

Judge says B.C. has failed to fund justice system

On February 1, the Times Colonist reported on a January 21 drug trafficking trial that was delayed because no sheriff was available. As a result, the accused was able to plead guilty to a lesser charge of drug possession. 

Also on February 1, the senior judge of the Supreme Court of B.C. in Victoria was forced to shutdown a complex trial because no court clerk was available. “The province of British Columbia has failed in its constitutional obligation to properly fund the administration of justice,” Justice Robert Johnston said before leaving the courtroom. 

BCGEU/NUPGE has been raising alarms for years

“Our front-line members are all too familiar with the chronic staffing problems in our courthouses and courtrooms,” said Lori Joaquin, BCGEU Vice-President Administrative Services, Component 12. “This is not just about difficult working conditions for our members. Justice delayed is justice denied, and we are seeing delays in courthouses all across the province.”

“The complement of sheriffs in Victoria has dropped from 35 to 25 in the last five years,” says Dean Purdy, BCGEU Vice-President Correctional and Sheriff Services, Component 1. “The shortage of sheriffs leads to delays and jeopardizes the safety of the judges, court staff, the public and the sheriffs.”

Budget cuts, lack of staff undermine justice system

“Unfortunately there is nothing new about these courthouse staffing shortages and the needless delays they cause,” says BCGEU President Stephanie Smith. “The justice system is a cornerstone of our democracy. Budget cuts and staffing shortages undermine that system. We will be looking to the provincial budget in a few weeks to see if the provincial government will address the problem and adequately fund the administration of justice.”

More information:

Times Colonist January 31, 2016: Court ‘roulette’ tied to sheriffs; ministry denies shortage 
Times Colonist  February 2, 2016: Top judge blasts province over lack of court 
GlobalTV News February 2, 2016: Staffing shortage affects trials in B.C.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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