On Monday, the government of BC released the White Paper on Justice Reform Part One: A Modern, Transparent Justice System, the latest step in the Justice Reform initiative that has been underway since February.
This white paper outlines the government’s immediate actions on recommendations made Geoffrey Cowper’s report, which was released in August 2012. Part two of the white paper is forthcoming; according to Justice Minister and AG Shirley Bond, it “will be informed by recommendations from the Missing Women Inquiry and B.C. Policing Plan, and will complete the Action Items in the Government’s justice reform agenda.”
From the news release, “Starting immediately, government will begin implementing the following 10 activities:
1. Establish a new governance structure, through a Justice and Public Safety Council, to set strategic direction and ensure co-ordination across the justice system.
2. Develop an annual Justice and Public Safety Plan that will set goals for the justice system and report publicly on performance measures.
3. Hold a regular Justice Summit, beginning March 2013, with justice system leaders to discuss the progress and direction of reforms.
4. Create better administrative management tools that will help enhance transparency and accountability within the system.
5. Transform justice information systems, beginning with the release of a Technology Strategy for Justice Information by spring 2013.
6. Construct a business intelligence system, starting with developing an Action Plan on Business Intelligence, that will help measure and report on how the system operates.
7. Create a costing methodology that considers the key cost drivers across the system and determines, in co-operation with the judiciary, the appropriate judicial complement for the Provincial Court.
8. Set performance measures that are relevant to the public and report on progress using tools like the Justice and Public Safety Plan and the JusticeBC data dashboard.
9. Reduce case backlogs and improve overall efficiency with a new court scheduling system, Crown file ownership, expansion of criminal duty counsel services, and an early resolution pilot project.
10. Streamline routine practices such as the way information flows from prosecutors to accused and their defence counsel, admission and discharges from corrections and workflow practices in courthouses to improve efficiency and service delivery.”
In response to the White Paper, the Law Society of BC said it “is pleased to see continued dedication to progressive reforms intended to address the problems that are facing the justice system.”
The CBABC echoed the sentiment, but added that it is dismayed that “the government has ignored the recommendation both of Geoff Cowper, QC, and of the Canadian Bar Association, that additional judges be immediately appointed to address the huge backlog of cases at risk of being dismissed due to delay. We are concerned that the proposed action plans to reduce the backlog and improve case management do not go far enough.”