Prosecutors overworked, understaffed in Kelowna: union

Call for more prosecutors

The union representing Crown prosecutors in B.C. is calling on the provincial government to hire five more in Kelowna.

The demand comes after the commander of the Kelowna RCMP told city council 78 per cent of cases sent to the Crown last year are still awaiting charge approval. The figure shocked mayor and council.

Supt. Kara Triance, however, later clarified 78 per cent of cases are actually still making their way through the court system. The BC Prosecution Service said it completes charge assessment on 74 per cent of files within 30 days.

“Either way, this brings to light the real issue - that Kelowna is growing, and our workload there is growing too,” says Kevin Marks, president of the BC Crown Counsel Association.

“It’s important that we have a properly resourced justice system to make sure criminals are arrested and prosecuted in a timely manner to protect the public,” Marks says.

“We have been asking the government since 2017 for additional funding to address the understaffing issue in the Kelowna office. Our prosecutors have worked essentially without a break for more than a year. They work nights and weekends to get the job done.”

Marks says prosecutors in Kelowna are under “incredible stress,” and comments implying they are somehow not doing their jobs are “hurtful to our hardworking members in Kelowna.”

“It’s just not true, and more needs to be done to get to the root of the problem and provide adequate resources in the Kelowna office. When Crown Counsel offices are not adequately resourced, there is a real risk that justice will not be served – especially true in Kelowna, one of the fastest growing regions in the province.”

This is not the first time Supt. Triance has been critical about perceived delays at the Kelowna branch of the BC Prosecution Service.

In October she called a news conference to announce concerns she had that a murder suspect in a domestic homicide had to be released while prosecutors requested further information from RCMP. That suspect was charged months later.

While pressure is being placed on prosecutors to move faster on charge approval, the same can be said for police investigations.

In 2016 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that criminal proceeding must complete in 18 or 30 months, depending on the case, from the time the charge is laid to conviction or acquittal. As a result, prosecutors are more often requiring police to gather complete evidence packages prior to approving charges and effectively 'starting the clock' in an effort to avoid introducing new evidence partway through cases, which often results in court delays.

The BC Prosecution Service has so far not answered questions about how many Crown prosecutors are based in Kelowna.

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