More sheriffs destined for Victoria courtrooms

Hiring freeze saw numbers dwindle, cases delayed

Delays to courtroom proceedings could be eased, after the province agreed to hire five new sheriffs for courtrooms in Victoria.

The new additions come after a hiring freeze caused the number of sheriffs in Victoria to dwindle to 26, from 35 in previous years.

The problem came to a head in April, when several trials had to be delayed because no sheriff was available to oversee the courtroom. An impaired driving trial, a handful of family cases and others were rescheduled.

“I think it’s definitely a move in the right direction,” Dean Purdy, chair of BCGEU’s corrections and sheriff services component, said of the plan to bring more sheriffs to Victoria.

“It will help to remove the pain courts have felt from the past year. We’ve seen on many cases judges around the province refuse to run court because of a lack of sheriffs.”

It’s a judge’s decision whether to hold court without a sheriff, but safety can be a concern, Purdy said. He added B.C. sheriffs left the province for better-paying jobs elsewhere during the hiring freeze.

Province-wide, 36 newly trained sheriffs will start overseeing courtrooms. Their training starts Aug. 31, meaning the first sheriff wouldn’t start full-time duties until December.

Solicitor General Shirley Bond said in a statement: “Because our primary goal continues to be ensuring the safety and security of people in our provincial courtrooms, the ministry reviewed our budget and reallocated funding to increase auxiliary hours and hire additional sheriffs.”

She added the ministry plans to train more sheriffs early next year.

In B.C., sheriffs bring accused offenders in custody to and from courtrooms, oversee courtroom safety, execute civil warrants and deliver wanted people to other provinces through the Con Air program.