Court concerns raised
Vernon’s 1914 courthouse is a landmark but it’s also restricting the wheels of justice.
Demands are growing for the provincial government to address space and safety concerns at the 27th Street facility.
“There is a lack of appropriate space to meet with clients and there is a lack of security for the accused to move from cells to courtrooms,” lawyer Sheridan Clemson told Justice Minister Shirley Bond at a Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce breakfast event Tuesday at the Schubert Centre.
Bond toured the courthouse while in Vernon.
“The safety concerns are legitimate,” said Bond of prisoners coming in contact with the public.
Bond says the courthouse is on the ministry’s 10-year capital plan and options may include restricting the current facility to civil matters while a new building would focus on criminal cases.
“I can’t tell you when (something may happen) but it’s on the list.”
Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, has met with lawyers, judges and sheriffs over the lack of modern security measures at the courthouse.
“It’s beautiful but it’s old. We certainly want to keep it,” said Foster.
Foster admits, though, that there is one challenge
“We’re talking big dollars (for a new building),” he said.
While speaking to the chamber at the Schubert Centre, Bond talked about increased focus on criminal organizations, including gang activity that led to a number of murders in Vernon.
“I have confidence in the police leadership in the province,” she said.
“We’ve made gang violence and mitigating that violence a priority.”
About $22 million a year is spent on anti-gang units across the province.
Bond also talked about the need for justice reform to reduce courtroom delays and use resources efficiently.
“If you are a victim of crime, should you be revictimized by the length of time it takes to get this resolved? I don’t think so,” she said.
Among the measures being looked at are handling traffic tickets administratively and moving family law towards mediation.