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Tech upgrade delays adding to BC Court COVID-19 backlog: Chief Justice

Last Updated Apr 30, 2020 at 3:17 pm PDT

B.C. Judge (Courtesy: Cliff MacArthur/provincialcourt.bc.ca)
Summary

The virus is causing all sorts of disruptions and that's no different for the legal system

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson says there will be a backlog when courts resume as usual

Hinkson says the need for technological upgrades isn't helping the situation

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The province’s sluggish response to support technological upgrades to the court system will contribute to the ever-growing backlog of cases caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to B.C.’s Chief Justice.

Christopher Hinkson suspended regular operations in mid-March, but since then, the court has attempted to carry on with essential and urgent matters through technology.

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And while courts have tried to adapt using video conferencing, teleconferences and in-person physical distancing, Hinkson says insufficient funding on technology upgrades in recent years is limiting what’s possible.

“Over the years, numerous and repeated requests have been made to government to make the necessary and appropriate investments in this area,” he says. “Prior to this pandemic, the Court was working with the Ministry of Attorney General to develop a digital strategy for the courts which had a timeline of three to four years for full adoption. COVID-19 has certainly highlighted the urgent and pressing need to compress that timeline.”

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The chief justice says the government has not provided the financial support to make the needed upgrades, and requests haven’t been answered yet.

Hinkson notes the suspension of regular court wasn’t an easy choice, saying it has hindered the “constitutional obligation to provide access to justice,” but was necessary during the pandemic.

“I am also mindful that the suspension of regular operations has created a backlog of adjourned cases which gets larger every day.”

Despite limitations, he says the court will keep trying to operate virtually and hear matters remotely.