A Progression of Judges: A History of the Supreme Court of British Columbia

By David R. Verchere | Go to book overview

FOUR
The Road to Colonial Union

After spending the winter in Victoria, Begbie left for New Westminster in March 1859 and soon set off from there on the first of his circuits, designed in the English fashion to take justice to the people and to ensure that persons charged with offences against the law were tried in their own locality by their peers. This pattern is still followed in British Columbia, and even today the assizes, the peripatetic sittings of the court, can he occasions of some moment in the bustling towns of the Interior.

In the same month, George Hunter Cary, newly arrived from England, was appointed attorney-general of British Columbia at a salary of £400 a year. It was a step that freed Begbie from the burden that Lord Bulwer- Lytton had placed upon him of helping Douglas compile the mainland colony's laws and ordinances and generally acting as the governor's legal adviser, and enabled him to promulgate a constitution for his court. 1 It declared that as of 8 June 1859, the Supreme Court of the colony of British Columbia was constituted a court of record, with Begbie as the judge with jurisdiction in all civil and criminal cases in British Columbia. From Victoria, Begbie had already issued general rules and orders of the court, requiring that the Supreme Court of British Columbia observe all the rules and orders of the Supreme Court of Civil Justice of Vancouver Island, except for the requirement that it sit at Victoria. Langley was selected as the home of the new court only to yield in short order to the claims of New Westminster.

New Westminster had been proclaimed by Douglas as capital of the

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