Turner Valley court reopens as Okotoks struggles with case load
Officials hope 8 sittings per month will alleviate major backlog at neighbouring Okotoks court
The Turner Valley courthouse reopens this week and officials hope the move will alleviate a major backlog.
It's been nearly 20 years since Turner Valley had its own courthouse and during that time case loads have been piling up in the nearby town of Okotoks.
Now the hope is to get cases moving more quickly through a system that's been struggling to keep up.
"Any services that you lose in a municipality and you're able to get back, people should be celebrating that," said Turner Valley Mayor Kelly Tuck. "I think it's a win-win situation for the area."
Many trials going through the Okotoks courthouse are being booked a year ahead. There are concerns charges could be stayed in some cases where an accused didn't get a timely trial.
Eden Valley concerns
Another problem has been the distance between Okotoks and the Eden Valley First Nation. The reserve is much closer to Turner Valley.
Few residents in the community have driver's licences and poverty is a big concern, so many can't afford the gas to get to Okotoks for court dates, according to Okotoks RCMP Cst. Jason Barber.
"It's a big issue there," he said
"A lot of people are unemployed, they live off of income support, they don't own vehicles ... [and] very few people have a valid licence at the moment. So what we try and do is schedule their court appearances so that it'll come after a date when they do have their income support so that they can afford to come to court."
Barber said he and other officers sometimes spend whole days driving witnesses and victims from Eden Valley to the Okotoks courthouse and back.
The reopened courthouse is right next door to the Turner Valley RCMP detachment, which will significantly cut driving time and allow officers to work while they wait for a matter to finish at court.
The court will sit eight days per month.