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A shortage of sheriffs is delaying murder and murder conspiracy cases in B.C

A BC Supreme Court judge and a dozen lawyers were unable to move forward with murder and murder conspiracy cases on May 27.

Murder and murder conspiracy cases were postponed in the BC Supreme Court on May 27 due to a shortage of sheriffs in BC, despite assurances from the attorney general that it is being handled.

Judge Kathleen Ker came to court to hear the two cases, but had to leave because there was no sheriff.

Sheriffs are required in courtrooms to ensure the safety of the proceedings. They also move prisoners around courthouses and transport them to court.

About a dozen lawyers, including four government-paid prosecutors, continued to mill outside the Vancouver District Court courtroom on Monday.

One case involved a performance by Pascal Jean Claude Bouthillete. He and Sandy Jack Parisian were charged in the death of 78-year-old Usha Singh.

Singh, who lived alone, was found severely assaulted in her home on January 31, 2021. Vancouver police said two men gained access to Singh’s Little Mountain home around 6 a.m. by posing as police officers.

Singh succumbed to her injuries in hospital two days later. Parisian and Bouthillete were arrested on February 3, 2021.

Several suspects are involved in the conspiracy to commit murder case. Two men are in court together, while a third is prosecuted separately. Due to a series of publication bans in the case and the individual trials, Glacier Media has chosen not to publish details at this time.

Court delays in B.C.’s legal system due to sheriff shortages have become increasingly common in recent years. Thirty-one courtrooms were closed between August 14 and September 13, 2023 in Abbotsford, North Vancouver, Port Coquitlam and Surrey. Earlier in 2023, sources told Glacier Media that courtrooms were also closed in Vancouver, Abbotsford, Port Coquitlam, Surrey, Victoria. , Chilliwack and Kamloops.

Concerns have already been raised among judges and by judges that delays could hinder people’s right to a trial within a reasonable time.

This is coming before the courts as lawyers begin to cite the application of so-called Jordanian principles upholding that right. The Jordan Principles stem from a case that ended up before the Supreme Court of Canada. A stay of proceedings is possible if a case reaches a ceiling of 18 months for those tried in provincial court, and 30 months for cases in higher courts.

The May 27 Vancouver Provincial Court docket alone listed 32 cases spanning more than 300 days (or almost 10 months).

“Delay attributable to or waived by the defense shall not count toward the presumptive ceiling,” the Supreme Court said.

Attorney General Nikki Sharma has acknowledged the problems created by the shortage and emphasized that the provincial government is working to recruit new sheriffs. In February, Sharma announced the addition of 13 new deputies.

“Everyone who uses the justice system expects it to be safe and smooth,” Sharma said in a statement at the time. “Sheriffs provide critical protection and enforcement services for the judiciary, the Crown, defence, court staff and the public, which is why it is so encouraging that more people than ever are applying to join the BC Sheriff Service.”

The new deputies will fill positions in Oliver, Kamloops, Prince George, Victoria and the Lower Mainland, Sharma said.

However, getting these recruits into the courtrooms takes time because they must undergo training at the Justice Institute of BC.

Glacier Media has contacted the Department of Attorney General for comment on the May 27 proceeding.

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