B.C. court backlog 'worst we've ever seen'
About 7,500 B.C. cases delayed more than 12 months
The number of court cases in B.C. that will be dismissed due to court delays is bound to increase for the foreseeable future, legal experts agree.
In 2010, 56 cases were thrown out for delays and that number nearly doubled to 109 in 2011.
The prospects for 2012 are no better.
"It's the worst we've ever seen, there's no question about that," said Sharon Matthews, B.C. Branch President of the Canadian Bar Association.
The provincial government announced Feb. 7 that it was appointing nine new judges and would seek to make the justice system more efficient, following a five-month review.
But lawyers say that will do little for the thousands of cases that are now nearing their expiration date in the courts.
"We have to catch up and avoid getting behind again," Matthews said.
There are already more than 2,500 cases in B.C. that have not come to trial where charges were laid more than 18 months ago — the threshold where they risk being thrown out.
Close behind those is an even bigger backlog of some 5,000 cases that have waited more than 12 months.
"The nine new [judge] appointments are not going to change that calculus," said Samiran Lakshman, of the B.C. Crown Counsel Association. "You can't turn back the clock, the damage has already been done."
There’s no consensus on a remedy, with lawyers calling for more courthouse staff and restored funding to legal aid.
But the government has suggested it is eyeing less costly reforms, like changing how court time is scheduled.
With files from the CBC's Lisa Johnson