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

Kelowna Vegan Festival takes over the Rotary Centre

The plant based creations stem from wanting to create a product that brings people together

UPDATE: West Kelowna fire deemed suspicious, crews dousing hot spots

Boucherie fire quiet overnight, mop-up continues, while evacuees have returned home.

Where to find the best ingredients for a vegan charcuterie board in the Okanagan

It’s warming up, pair your summer whites with a vegan charcuterie creation

Airbnb hosts earning millions in the Okanagan

The Okanagan was among the list of three Canadian wine markets.

Rolling into Bike to Work Week

Kelowna, Lake Country and West Kelowna will all be rolling into Bike to Work week

Trans Mountain pipeline: Is it worth the risk?

Concerns range from the threat of an oil spill to the impact of tanker traffic on wildlife

Wildfire sparked north of Merritt, estimated 8 hectares

BC Wildfire Service is responding to the fire near Chattaway Lake FSR 27 kilometres north of Merritt

Call for artists for upcoming South Okanagan exhibition

The Penticton Art Gallery is inviting artists from across the globe to submit artworks

B.C. to spend $181M to create 200 general practitioner jobs

Jobs will go to new medical school graduates

Vernon company wins Ozone best production

Powerhouse Theatre’s Calendar Girls will move on to the Theatre BC Mainstage Festival

Host AquaJets fly at long course invitational

Kelowna swim club wins team title at annual spring meet at H2O

Federal leaders trade barbs about India trip at press gallery dinner

Justin Trudeau’s infamous trip to India earlier this year was the focus of many of the jabs

Most Read