The Supreme Court of British Columbia’s Annual Report was released last week. Consistent with recent comments, Chief Justice Bauman noted that system underfunding continues to be a problem highlighting that “Financial constraints have reduced the number of court clerks, registry staff and sheriffs available to operate the justice system. This affects the level of service that the public requires and has led to delays in processing court orders, scheduling hearings and conducting hearings“.
So why does any of this matter? The short answer is that system underfunding imposes a high cost on those that need access to justice. If you have a civil legal matter that needs resolving, be it a contract dispute, a personal injury claim, or a family law matter, that person could be you.
At the conclusion of the annual report some raw statistics are laid out. Focusing on the Court Registry I most often access (Victoria) the data shows that in 2011 86 trials were heard. A further 7 trials were ‘bumped’ (meaning adjounred because the system could not accomodate the hearings).
In the most basic terms this means 8% of people who tried to have their day in court in the Victoria BC Supreme Court Registry in 2011 had their cases ‘bumped’. Justice Delayed is Justice Denied. These delays come with real costs, both financial and emotional, for the litigants involved. Those affected must shoulder the costs of preparing for trial not once but twice. This is an unfair burden for individual litigants to bear. Surely we as a Province can do better than this.
Not limiting judicial criticism to the annual report, The Chief Justices of BC’s Courts have also provided an interview to CBC’s Ian Hanomansing addressing, amongst other topics, the costs of justice system and legal aid underfunding. The below video is worth reviewing in full for their comments: