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People skipping court reaching ‘horrific’ levels: Powell River RCMP

The head of the Powell River RCMP says the number of people failing to attend court is reaching “horrific” levels.

Staff Sgt. Rod Wiebe says the charge was considered an “general administrative penalty” but that’s changing.

“The pendulum is starting to shift. We are starting to see a few more fail-to-appear charges and we’ve just met with Crown counsel and I think we’re going to see more of those charges come forward now,” Wiebe told city councillors Tuesday night.

He said prosecutors expect police to actively find people and it’s putting a strain on police resources.

“The courts are now expecting us not to sit on that warrant (for failing to attend court) and arrest the person when we come across them, whenever. We’re supposed to actively pursue them otherwise it can have Jordan impacts on the overall trial so we have to show that we made efforts…some people don’t want to be found and it takes a lot of effort to drum them up,” Wiebe said.

The Jordan reference refers to the Supreme Court of Canada case, R. v. Jordan, on a person’s right to be tried within a reasonable time.

The detachment commander was responding to questions from Powell River councillors following a resolution passed at last weekend’s Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities conference.

The resolution from the City of Duncan asked the province to exclude those charges from crime statistics for municipalities with courthouses because it inflates the numbers used by the province to determine policing levels and costs.

In Duncan’s case, the city says it was allotted 100 per cent of the 325 fail-to-appear charges in 2023 even though 80 per cent of those cases had originated in other jurisdictions.

Powell River currently pays about $4 million a year for policing by the Mounties.

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