COVID improves northern justice

The B.C. legal system was caught flat-footed in many ways by the COVID outbreak last year, but it responded to the crisis with some long-overdue improvements such as the northern bail pilot project.

Championed by Provincial Court Chief Judge Melissa Gillespie, the initiative to conduct virtual bail hearings rather than transporting accused persons from small towns to Prince George is getting encouraging reviews.

“But there is a lot of work to be done,” cautioned David Griffiths, manager of Criminal, Immigration and Appeals at Legal Aid B.C. “It has the potential to be a real benefit for everybody. … The way we did it before is if you were in Fort St. James or Vanderhoof and the court wasn’t sitting that day, you were likely going to be driven to Prince George, and that was a one-way ticket. When you got released, you were released in Prince George and nobody was driving you back home. That wasn’t a benefit for anybody.”

For Indigenous people from a remote community, the experience could be disorienting, exacerbate personal challenges, and result in those without much worldly wisdom being preyed upon in the city.

Read The Full Article In The Vancouver Sun

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