Williams Lake is one of five municipalities to get a new judge to help with B.C.’s backlogged court system.
Five new judges were named Sunday by Attorney-General Barry Penner to serve in Surrey, Vernon, Williams Lake and Prince George. The new appointments will allow the chief judge of the provincial court to assign an extra judge to Vancouver as well.
Robert Hamilton and Robin Baird will serve in South Fraser/Surrey district, Mayland McKimm, QC, in Vernon, Marguerite Church in Williams Lake and Roderick Sutton in Prince George.
Church, who has a law degree from the University of British Columbia, practices civil and family law with Cundari Seibel LLP in Kamloops, where she is an associate. A B.C. lawyer since 1998, she hears appeals under the Employment Assistance Act and regulations for the provincial Employment and Assistance Appeal Tribunal. Church’s appointment is effective Aug. 29.
“These five new appointments will help reduce case-load pressures while we continue to work to balance the budget,” says Attorney General Barry Penner.
But the system is still falling behind, says NDP justice critic Leonard Krog. He said the five new judges represent less than a third of the 17 the provincial court estimated were needed in a report on the issue last fall. Numerous prosecutions have been dropped because of delays in getting them to trial, and thousands more are at risk of the same fate.
In late June, Penner reversed a budget cut to part-time sheriffs that reduced the service by the equivalent of 34 full-time sheriffs, after judges raised the alarm about risks to courtroom security. Sheriffs are responsible for keeping order in courtrooms and moving prisoners to and from custody for their court appearances.
“We’re down about 100 [sheriffs] from where we were a few years ago, and that led to a number of court cases being delayed,” Krog said Monday. Changes to B.C.’s impaired driving regulations are also reducing the load on the provincial court system.
— With files from Tom Fletcher