Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Reduce Pre-Trial Appearances to Cut Court Backlog: B.C. Justice Reformer

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Reduce Pre-Trial Appearances to Cut Court Backlog: B.C. Justice Reformer

Article excerpt

Reduce pre-trial appearances:justice reformer

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VANCOUVER - The lawyer tasked with unclogging British Columbia's overburdened courts has held candid conversations with more than 100 groups and individuals and that's made him "comfortable" he'll soon be ready to oil the slow-turning wheels of justice.

Lawyer Geoffrey Cowper says everyone wants a speedier system and that will require both concrete measures and in-house "cultural recognition" that being timely needs to be a priority.

Cutting the number of court appearances before an accused goes to trial will likely be among his recommendations when he releases his final report to the government by end of next month.

"There's been a very active debate about how we would get there and what kind of changes we need to get there," he said Friday as he released a second interim report on the progress of his review.

"I think people are looking at it very creatively, trying to figure out changes that we would make that wouldn't cost money as well as changes that might involve additional resources."

Cowper has heard from a number of judges who fondly recall a previous era when short criminal matters went to trial in only a few months.

Blasting back to the past while moving forward could involve re-implementing those previously understood deadlines with modern technology, he said. Wider use of video court appearances and email could also push the process ahead.

Were trials to occur much sooner, "a significant number of the current problems would fall away," Cowper noted in his report released Friday.

Cowper, the former head of the society administering legal aid services in B.C., was appointed in February to conduct a wholesale review of a system wincing under the strain of too many cases.

At the time his review began, government statistics showed 2,500 criminal cases had been before the provincial court for more than 18 months. …

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