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Shortage of clerks and sheriffs leads to harsh criticism from B.C. judge

Our union has been raising concerns about chronic staffing shortages at B.C. courthouses. Once again, staffing shortages in Victoria courtrooms have made headlines.

On Monday, the Times Colonist reported on a January 21 drug trafficking trial that was delayed because no sheriff was available. As a result, the accused was able to plead guilty to a lesser charge of drug possession. 

Also on Monday, the senior judge of the Supreme Court of B.C. in Victoria was forced to shutdown a complex trial because no court clerk was available. “The province of British Columbia has failed in its constitutional obligation to properly fund the administration of justice,” Justice Robert Johnston said before leaving the courtroom. 

“Our frontline members are all too familiar with the chronic staffing problems in our courthouses and courtrooms,” said Lori Joaquin, BCGEU vice president Administrative Services – Component 12. “This is not just about difficult working conditions for our members. Justice delayed is justice denied, and we are seeing delays in courthouses all across the province.”

“The complement of sheriffs in Victoria has dropped from 35 to 25 in the last five years,” says Dean Purdy, BCGEU vice president Corrections and Sheriff Services – Component 1. “The shortage of sheriffs leads to delays and jeopardizes the safety of the judges, court staff, the public and the sheriffs.”

“Unfortunately there is nothing new about these courthouse staffing shortages and the needless delays they cause,” says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. “The justice system is a cornerstone of our democracy. Budget cuts and staffing shortages undermine that system. We will be looking to the provincial budget in a few weeks to see if the provincial government will address the problem and adequately fund the administration of justice.”

Click on the links below to read/view the media reports: