Recent History – 1999
June 17, 1999, By Kelly Henschel, Daily News Staff
The hand of justice never sleeps. Especially not now that a 24-hour Justice of the Peace service has been extended to several small B.C. communities including Chetwynd and Hudson’s Hope.
The new service will allow police in smaller communities with no local Justice of the Peace to reach those on 24-hour call at the Vancouver centre on the phone or via fax.
For communities such as Chetwynd and Hudson’s Hope, which have their own Justice of the Peace, the service will be available after hours or on weekends when the local court registries are closed.
Under the Criminal Code, Justices of the Peace issue legal documents such as arrest or search warrants. In the past, police would have had to travel to a neighbouring community such as Fort St. John or Dawson Creek if a document was required after hours, often leaving the detachment short-staffed in the process.
“Police will spend less time travelling and more time policing”, says Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh of the new system. “Police officers needing to enter a home to investigate a complaint can phone the Vancouver centre, speak to a duty Justice of the Peace and apply for a search warrant in a matter of minutes, day or night, seven days a week.”
The system has been available to Chetwynd RCMP since June 1, says Cpl. Bruce Haley, and while the small detachment welcomes the idea, it has yet to be put to the test.
“As far as the impact on our policing, we haven’t really experienced it yet,” says Haley.
However, he says, cutting down on travel time will definitely be a big benefit. If Chetwynd officers need a Justice of the Peace and can’t get to their own, the next closest is Dawson Creek, a two-hour round trip.
“A lot of times on the weekend and after hours, we may work with only one member,” Haley says. “We can see a bit of a benefit there where they’re not going to be spending a lot of time on the road.”
In the past, if the officer on duty had to travel to find a Justice of the Peace and another call came in, it would either have to wait or if it was an emergency, another member would be called in on overtime, he says.
With the new system, time might still be a bit of a problem with faxing the information back and forth, but would still be quicker than the physical travel, he adds.
Constable Mike Galbraith of the Hudson’s Hope detachment agrees the service would help cut down on time spent travelling, if the local Justice of the Peace should not be available. Officers at the small three-man detachment would then be able to pursue other important duties.
“Anything that speeds up and smoothes out the process is a welcome addition,” he says.