Accused drug dealers leave B.C. courts free men due to shortage of sheriffs

Sheriff shortage frees accused B.C. dealers

VICTORIA — A shortage of courthouse sheriffs has resulted in two accused drug dealers being freed without facing justice, sparking an uproar in British Columbia’s legislature with the Opposition New Democrats accusing the government of cost-cutting during a deadly overdose crisis.

Mike Farnworth, the NDP’s public safety critic, said Thursday it’s outrageous two men accused of cocaine and heroin trafficking did not face trial because there weren’t enough sheriffs available to protect and monitor the courtrooms.

He said the accused heroin dealer was smiling when the Victoria judge told him Wednesday he was free to leave the court. Last week, cocaine trafficking charges against a Victoria man were stayed when a sheriff was not available to be present in the courtroom.

“It sickens the public,” said Farnworth. “Can the attorney general tell this house why her government would rather see this drug dealing thug, accused drug dealing thug, walk free than ensure there are enough sheriffs in the courtrooms of British Columbia.”

He said the government has been cutting sheriff positions during the last four years, reducing the numbers from more than 500 provincewide to about 420. In Victoria, the sheriffs numbers have been cut from 35 to 21, said Farnworth.

“This government is guilty of under valuing the work of sheriffs in B.C.,” Farnworth said. “This attorney general and this government are guilty of causing the chaos in our courtrooms.”

Attorney General Suzanne Anton said there has been a shortage of sheriffs at the Victoria courthouse in the past few days due to sickness and staffing issues, but help is on the way.

She said she has an extra $2.6 million in her budget to address sheriff issues and 48 new sheriffs are currently in training classes, with 24 recruits available in May and the other 24 ready for duty in October.

“It’s our goal every single day to make sure all the courtrooms that are open and needed in British Columbia are properly resource,” said Anton.

B.C. court spokesman Bruce Cohen said the chief justice of the B.C. Supreme Court plans to look into the issue.

Sheriffs are required to transport accused people to court and monitor and protect courtrooms.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Accused in Kelowna triple murder in court today

Jacob Forman has been in custody since he was arrested and charged with second degree murder

JoeAnna’s House fundraising campaign reaches $4.5 million

Offering ‘home away from home’ for families of KGH patients

2014 murder case finally goes to trial

Steven Randy Pirko was charged with second-degree murder in 2016

Flood recovery work set to begin in Kelowna

The first phase of $5 million dollar flood recovery plan for Upper Vernon Creek will begin on Monday

Kelowna exhibition showcases nature of Haida Gwaii

The Kelowna Art Gallery is holding a reception for Gwaii Haanas – Islands and Sacred Sites Friday

Canadian junior captain returns to Rockets lineup

Dillon Dube will be back in Kelowna’s lineup Wednesday night after world juniors and bout of flu

Dube, Foote pace Rockets to O.T. win

World junior gold medalists key in 4-3 victory Wednesday over Lethbridge

Winter storm coming to B.C. this weekend

The bets are on as to how much snow the province will actually get in the coming days

Public asked to report bat sightings

White nose syndrome leads to bats flying in winter or death.

B.C. civil rights group files complaint about RCMP arrest of man who later died

Dale Culver, a 35-year-old Indigenous man was arrested in Prince George last July

Lawyer says former B.C. government aide ‘barely guilty’ in ethnic vote scandal

Brian Bonney pleaded guilty to a breach of trust charge

Song penned for Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Penticton

Curling Time released to celebrate Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Penticton

Quite a few tears as homemade quilts distributed to residents of Ashcroft Reserve, Boston Flats affected by last summer’s fire

Quilters in B.C. and Alberta worked through the summer and fall to create more than 100 quilts.

Island Health: No need for alarm in wake of Victoria needle-prick incidents

Three incidents in a week prompts meeting between health authority, city service providers

Most Read