British Columbia

Shortage of sheriffs delays court proceedings in B.C., union claims

The B.C. Government Employees Union claims judges had to postpone court dates because there weren't enough sheriffs to provide security.

Judges have had to postpone court dates because there weren't enough sheriffs to provide security, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU)claims, citing three occasions in which court proceedings were recently delayed.

The president of the BCGEU, George Heyman, says court sherrifs are seeing greener pastures in other law enforcement jobs. ((CBC))

"We have had three confirmed cases of judges actually delaying court proceedings because there was an absence of a sheriff available to serve in the courtroom," union president George Heyman told CBC News Friday.

"There was no extenuating circumstance. This isn't in the interests of the smooth administration of justice in B.C.," he said.

Heyman claims sheriffs are leaving for other law enforcement jobs in both B.C. and Alberta at an alarming rate — a reduction of 12 per cent this year.

He's asking Attorney General Wally Oppal to advocate for a pay raise so people stay longer and new recruits are attracted to the job.

B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal says a court sherrif's job is an entry-level position so it's not uncommon for people to move on to other policing jobs. ((CBC))

"You can't expect people to work unconscionable amounts of overtime simply because we're short-staffed [and] because we can't retain the staff we have and we can't train new staff quickly," Heyman said.

But Oppal said the government is trying to deal with labour shortages in almost every sector of B.C.

He said the attrition rate of court sheriffs is only about nine per cent — not the 12 per cent the union is claiming.

"We have 20 more coming out from the recruit class and that will take care of some of it," Oppal told CBC News Friday.

"We've had meetings with the BCGEU and George Heyman and we'll continue to work with the BCGEU… It's an ongoing challenge."

Oppal would not commit to a pay increase and said a sheriff's job is an entry-level position and it's not uncommon for people to move on to other policing jobs.

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