Kelowna RCMP commander apologizes to Crown prosecutors after inaccurate statements

Top cop apologizes: Crown

UPDATE 5:50 p.m.

Attorney General David Eby is not answering calls to hire more Crown prosecutors in Kelowna, instead suggesting money could be spent better tackling the root causes of crime.

“The larger issue is we do have a number of people who have serious mental health and addictions, and are involved in petty property crime,” he said in a statement to Castanet.

“We need to put better responses in place.”

“There are two options. One, which is the most expensive housing we have, but doesn’t actually help people with their core issues, is jail. The other is to try to help people with their underlying issues that is causing people to be involved in this kind of activity.”

He said the province has recently funded 20 complex care sites across B.C. that will be designed to help break people out of the cycling of reoffending, “primarily driven by mental health and addictions issues.”

“These issues cause serious stress in the community, and who themselves are incredibly distressed and need a medical response to the challenges they are facing. They are in and out of jails and emergency rooms regularly. Responses in the past have been to increase the number of jail cells. Our preference is to address the underlying mental health and addictions issues.”

Eby says Interior Health will be operating these sites in the B.C. Interior, and in the City of Kelowna, mayor Basran is enthusiastic about hosting one.

“I am working to support him and I am grateful for his leadership and wanting to take this approach in dealing with these issues.”

He noted that the RCMP has already acknowledged that statements made about an alleged case backlog in Kelowna are inaccurate and case files are "reviewed in a timely and appropriate way."

“They go into the court system for the judges to determine the appropriate outcomes. If we want to interrupt that cycle that some people are in, we’re going to need to first deal with the mental health and addictions challenges. That’s why I’m very much looking forward to the complex care sites opening.”

ORIGINAL 3:15 p.m.

The BC Prosecution Service is again hitting back at statements made by Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance during last Monday's city council meeting.

At that meeting, she said 78 per cent of charges sent to Crown counsel in 2021 have not been assessed and are awaiting charge approval. The figures shocked mayor and council.

She said some prolific offenders were on the streets committing crimes, specifically property offences, while still awaiting charges on previous alleged offences.

She later clarified those statements, and said in fact 78 per cent of charges are still making their way through the courts system, blaming the confusion on differences in how the police and prosecutors track files.

"These statements are grossly inaccurate and they unjustifiably cast doubt on the professionalism and effectiveness of hard-working Crown Counsel," BC Prosecution Service said in a statement Friday.

"There is no Crown charge assessment backlog and this is not an issue of differences in systems or tracking."

Crown Friday reiterated comments made following Monday's council meeting that the "overwhelming majority" of reports sent to Crown Counsel from the Kelowna RCMP last year were assessed within 30 days or less of being received. Those files, they say have been approved and are pending before the court, awaiting disposition, trial or sentencing.

"After media reports about the statements made to Kelowna city council, the officer in charge contacted senior Crown Counsel, specifically acknowledging that the statements had been inaccurate, and apologizing for making them."

Meanwhile, the union representing prosecutors in B.C. is calling on the provincial government to fund five more prosecutors in Kelowna.

The BC Crown Counsel Association called the RCMP's initial claims about a backlog "way outside of what was accurate," but said the Kelowna Crown office is up its eyes.

"The Crown council office is at its limit, to say the least, in terms of up keeping up. They are keeping up currently, but in order to do so, they are working morning, noon and night and we can do so to keep up with all the work that is coming through. And it's not sustainable," said Kevin Marks, president of the BC Crown Counsel Association.

"We've told government that numerous times," he added. "We do find ourselves treading water and losing sometimes in terms of keeping on top of charges."

The Kelowna Crown office has 15.6 full-time equivalent prosecutors, up from 12 in 2017.

But that doesn't mean they are all available for files.

"For example, we have three, for the last over a year that we haven't been able to use on our roster because they're working on bigger projects," Marks said.

"The office has been stretched to its limits and has been for years."

When asked about prior concerns Supt. Kara Triance has raised about the charge approval process, namely after a homicide last year that saw the suspect wait months to be charge, Marks said they are on the same team as the police.

"We're on the same side of justice. And we are working equally hard, and in unison to to protect the citizens of British Columbia, and specifically the citizens of Kelowna," Marks said.

Castanet has requested comment from Attorney General David Eby and the Kelowna RCMP and will update this story.

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