Kelowna council was shocked during this week’s meeting (Feb. 28) after hearing about the apparent backlog of property crime charges awaiting review by the BC Prosecution Service (BCPS).
In a review of crime statistics for 2021 RCMP Superintendent Kara Triance told council 78 per cent of charges sent to the BCPS still have not been assessed. She added the total number of charges for the year, including violence, mischief, and other offences, was 3,358 with 2,675 awaiting assessment, or nearly 80 per cent.
“That is unreal,” said Mayor Colin Basran. “I’d be defeated to come to work every day. That is unbelievable.”
Supt. Triance said the backlog works against trying to hold somebody accountable for their actions.
“You arrest somebody on Friday with a stolen firearm, stolen property, perhaps illicit substances, and by Monday they’re back out on the streets able to commit crimes,” she said. “It becomes impossible to stay on top of that significant calls for service.”
She also indicated that the BCPS is at full capacity.
“Absolutely, that is a resourcing issue for their teams,” she said. “I want to highlight the excellent work individuals within the service are doing, but there’s only so much work that a team can do without enhanced resources.”
Triance added the Kelowna area has a slightly higher criminal charge approval rate, at 90 per cent, compared to 83 per cent for the rest of the province.
The numbers presented by Triance differ from those with BCPS.
“Part of the challenge is that we are not sure when the specific files were submitted, said Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel, BCPS. “We also do not know what these numbers represent. Are they accused on a file? Are these 2021 offences or do they include 2020 files submitted in 2021. We process charge approvals on an ongoing basis, so without specifics, a statement like this is difficult to comment on.”
McLaughlin said charge assessment duration is one of the key performance indicators tracked by the BCPS. The indicator measures how many days it takes Crown Counsel to complete a charge assessment, from the date a police file is received to the date a decision is made.
“I have pulled information from our database and although I cannot ensure, based on the limits of our system, that these are specific City of Kelowna files, as opposed to West Kelowna and, or Lake Country,”
The numbers McLaughlin provided are for all files received by the BCPS from RCMP in 2021.
“Our records indicate that there were a total of 1,962 reports to Crown Counsel with 2,048 accused submitted by Kelowna RCMP to BCPS,” he said. “This is based on when the report was received. A file commenced by the police in 2020 might not be submitted till 2021.”
McLaughlin said of the 2,048 accused, decisions were recorded on 1,927 of them. Of those decisions, 1,584 accused were approved to court, with 314 resulting in a no-chargedecision, and 29 being referred for alternate measures. Of the 121 that had no decision, 69 of those were returned to police. Only 52 are recorded as in progress.”
Information provided by McLaughlin also showed that in the annual report for 2020/2021 the BCPS reported that 40 per cent of assessments were completed the day the file was received, 46 per cent within three days, 57 per cent within seven days, 68 per cent within 15 days, and 79 percent within 30 days of the receipt of a police file.
“These figures are for the province so there may be minor regional variations,” he said. “Each case is different and complex cases will require more time to review the results of these investigations which can result in thousands of pages of disclosure.”