Lack of sheriffs in B.C. 'reaching a crisis point,' union says

"The problem really is about recruitment and retention, and ultimately, it’s about the salary," said BCGEU President Stephanie Smith. But the Ministry of Justice says there are enough sheriffs in province and trial times are down.

Ministry of Justice says enough sheriffs in province and trial times down

A group of B.C. sheriffs passed out flyers during a rally at the B.C. provincial courthouse on Hornby Street on Wednesday. (CBC)

There aren't enough sheriffs in B.C., and that's causing backlogs in the province's courts, says the union representing those workers

As a result, sheriffs are often forced to work overtime, says Stephanie Smith, the president of the B.C. Government Services Employee Union.

Sheriffs are responsible for transporting the accused as well as providing security in the court, and when there aren't enough sheriffs, either the transportation results in delays or not enough security in the courtroom means proceedings can't go ahead.

On Wednesday morning, Smith and a group of sheriffs were handing out leaflets outside the Vancouver provincial court on Hornby Street, looking to attract new workers.

"We've been hearing from our members in the sheriffs, for a number of years about the ongoing issues," she told On The Coastguest host Gloria Macarenko.

"The problem really is about recruitment and retention, and ultimately, it's about the salary B.C. sheriffs are earning. Compared to others in similar occupations, they are paid far less. And so many sheriffs will leave that sector and move into other peace officer positions. … It's reaching a crisis point."

Smith wants the province to review compensation of sheriffs to make sure they're paid fairly, based on their training and workload.

She says she will be meeting with Minister of Public Safety Mike Morris and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton about her concerns.

In a statement to CBC, a justice ministry spokesperson wrote there are enough sheriffs in the province to meet the needs of courtrooms, but, "at times, hours of work can fluctuate and result in overtime, depending on the requirements of the Court and what needs to be done."

The statement also read that time to trial is down for criminal, family and small claims trials.

With files from On The Coast

Flyers produced by the BCGEU warned against "bandaid solutions" to what they consider to be a shortage of sheriffs. (CBC)

To hear the full interview with BCGEU President Stephanie Smith, click the audio labelled: Lack of sheriffs in B.C. 'reaching a crisis point' BCGEU says

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