Provincial Court of BC - Practice Direction: Criminal Pre-Trial Conferences During COVID-19

From the Provincial Court of British Columbia:

Effective date: 28 April 2020

CRIM 12

In R. v. Jordan, 2016 SCC 27, the Supreme Court of Canada told all participants in the criminal justice system they have “a role to play in changing courtroom culture and facilitating a more efficient criminal justice system” (at para. 45). Participants were directed to engage in “proactive, preventative problem solving” (supra, at para. 112) and encouraged to “eliminate or avoid inefficient practices” (supra, at para. 117).

Since these directions in Jordan, over three quarters of all criminal files set for trial in Provincial Court collapsed on the scheduled trial date because of guilty pleas, stays of proceedings, bench warrants or adjournments. In this same timeframe, only 4% of all criminal files actually proceeded to a hearing in the Provincial Court. These statistics reveal that too many criminal files are set for trial and do not proceed causing significant scheduling difficulties and inefficient use of court time.

These concerns are amplified in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Court’s consequential suspension of regular court operations. The Provincial Court is implementing this practice direction to help address these concerns by mandating pre-trial conferences for criminal files (adult and youth) at all Provincial Court locations in the Province. This practice direction also represents one of the steps the Court is taking to increase court operations during the COVID-19 pandemic while ensuring public health continues to be protected.

Read the full Practice Direction at provincialcourt.bc.ca