The mayor of Quesnel has received a letter from British Columbia Attorney General David Eby saying the city’s Crown Counsel office is fully staffed and not in need of additional resources.
The letter, dated Dec. 13, 2018, was discussed at the Quesnel City Council meeting on Jan. 8, and was in reply to a letter received by Eby in November 2018 from Mayor Bob Simpson.
Simpson’s letter had asked for the ministry to increase local Crown Counsel resources and prosecute offenders in a timelier manner, as well as add short-term Crown Counsel resources immediately, to prevent the escalation of property crime in the region.
Eby wrote that Quesnel’s Crown Counsel office is operating at its full complement of lawyers and legal administration staff, and said the BC Prosecution Service advised him “the case load in Quesnel is stable, as is the time to trial.”
Eby also commented on leniency in the court system, saying that unless the Criminal Code mandates a minimum punishment, “judges have considerable latitude in deciding what sentence should be imposed.”
At Tuesday night’s council meeting, Mayor Simpson commented that the issue is not with the judges’ decisions, but with Crown Counsel perhaps not presenting the full background of the offender to the court.
“Our issue was that the prosecution was not proceeding with charges or not laying charges for breach of parole, failure to appear, and other misdemeanours that, if rolled up during the period of time that a person is waiting to get into the court, then when they are charged and found guilty, the judge does not have this long list of failure to appear, breach of parole, [etc.], to take into consideration when they pass judgment,” said Simpson.
Simpson said he will again follow up with Eby to clarify his points.
The mayor had previously sat with Minister Eby in September 2018 at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities Convention in Whistler, B.C. to discuss these issues.
At the time, Simpson told the Observer the Attorney General’s office had committed to reviewing Crown Counsel resources and practices in Quesnel.
Simpson sent his original letter to Attorney General Eby as well as Public Safety and Solicitor General of B.C. Mike Farnworth; Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale; and Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould, outlining Quesnel’s wish to ensure the city’s full funded complement of RCMP officers is filled and increase local Crown Counsel resources in order to better combat crime.
The City of Quesnel provides funding for 21 RCMP officers in the region and the province provides for nine; however, Mayor Simpson told the Observer last summer that the Quesnel RCMP detachment has at times operated with as few as 16 officers.
The City of Quesnel has received replies from Ministers Goodale and Farnworth. Goodale indicated that Quesnel’s requests must be made to Farnworth, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
In his letter, Minister Farnworth said the Ministry would be raising the issues with the BC RCMP commanding officer.
“The RCMP committed to a resource review for the Quesnel Detachment. We share your concerns that this review has not yet been completed. … Let us assure you that ministry staff are actively engaged with the RCMP to assist with this review,” Farnworth wrote in his Oct. 16, 2018 letter to Mayor Simpson.
Farnworth also said he anticipates a review of the RCMP’s Special Project Team, which is based out of the Williams Lake RCMP detachment, to “determine future funding and deployment needs for 2019/20.”
The City of Quesnel has not yet had a response from Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould.