Medicine Hat Provincial Court judge spoke out on the state of the local
judiciary Tuesday noting the system is feeling pressures that are
“affecting the administration of justice.”
Judge Ted Fisher’s comments came halfway through a marathon morning
docket session which saw proceedings that were originally scheduled to
end at lunch, stretch well into the afternoon without a break.
Two sentencing hearings on drug trafficking pleas — those for Jeremy
Thomas Lewis, 20 and Kristina Fiddler, 26 — prompted the remarks.
Referring to the Fiddler guilty plea, Fisher held up a number of case law files provided to him by the defence to help outline precedents for the length of sentence to be imposed.
Fisher asked, “I’m supposed to make a decision on this person’s liberty in a few minutes?”
He went on to highlight government cutbacks as a problem as well as the fact that while Brooks has received an extra docket day, Medicine Hat isn’t receiving funding to deal with its case load pressures.
Fisher stated to the court that he will endeavor — in conjunction with other local judges — to set a day which will be strictly reserved for sentencing matters.
Crown prosecutor Andrea Dolan told the court she welcomed the move.
Bill Cocks, defence lawyer and former Medicine Hat Crown, said the system is beginning to get clogged up with criminal cases.
“You can talk about being tough on crime and being a law and order government but if you don’t put the resources into courts and the prosecution service, all the crime will end up in gridlock.”
Cocks went on to say that backlog of the system leads to plea-bargains “the public are uncomfortable about.”
Both Fiddler and Lewis had their sentencing hearings adjourned until March 29.