British Columbia

Top B.C. judges discuss sentencing, court delays and TV cameras

CBC News reporter Ian Hanomansing sat down earlier this year with B.C.'s three chief judges — Provincial Court Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree, Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman and Court of Appeal Chief Justice Lance Finch — for a rare and exclusive on-camera interview.

CBC News reporter Ian Hanomansing sat down earlier this year with B.C.'s three chief judges — Provincial Court Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree, Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman and Court of Appeal Chief Justice Lance Finch — for a rare and exclusive on-camera interview.

They discussed the big issues facing provincial courts — court delays, cameras being allowed in court rooms and sentencing.

The following is an editorial written by Hanomansing on the interview and what the judges had to say.

Ian Hanomansing, CBC News

Even as I sat down to start the interview, I thought about how unusual, perhaps even unprecedented, this was.

Here we were, sitting in a British Columbia courtroom with our television camera. In front of me, the province's three chief judges.

They represented the B.C. Provincial Court, the B.C. Supreme Court and the B.C. Court of Appeal. But they also represented something more: an effort by the judiciary to reach out to the public.

I had told them beforehand the general topics but they agreed to sit down without any restrictions. The result was a rare opportunity to hear the three judges speak about a wide range of topics.

On court delays, Provincial Court Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree points out it's not just criminal cases that are facing unacceptable delays. I was surprised to hear it's also affecting family cases, which would involve child custody, and — perhaps most troubling — child protection cases.

Perhaps no judicial topic is more controversial than sentencing. Call-in shows and letters to the editor are filled with angry comments about "criminals getting away with murder."

As you'll hear, the judges are frustrated too. But in their case, it's with what they feel is the gap between perception and reality.

Finally, there's the issue of cameras in the courtroom, which was back in the news this year because of the Stanley Cup riot cases.

Their comments on cameras reflect a conflict I've heard from many judges: in principle, it makes sense. In practice, it makes them uncomfortable.

What I found more revealing is the opinion of Justice Finch on what he thinks motivates the media.

Whatever your reaction to what they say, you will hear three judges who want to engage the public in a discussion. And I'm sure the conversation will continue.