Chief judge says court changes pose se­ri­ous chal­lenges

Har­bour Grace cases likely mov­ing to St. John’s or Clarenville

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY ROSIE MULLALEY TC ME­DIA The Tele­gram

The prov­ince’s top judge ad­mits it won’t be easy iron­ing out all the changes linked to four planned court­house clo­sures.

“Th­ese are very chal­leng­ing times for the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice,” Chief Judge Pam Goulding said.

“We’re try­ing to de­liver a ser­vice to the peo­ple of New­found­land and Labrador, and th­ese are very dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances un­der which to do it.”

In what was one of sev­eral an­nounce­ments made in the pro­vin­cial Lib­eral govern­ment’s bud­get, it was re­vealed four court cen­tres will close - Har­bour Grace and Wabush pro­vin­cial courts, along with New­found­land Supreme Courts in Grand Bank and Grand Fall­sWind­sor.

The move is ex­pected to save the govern­ment more than $800,000 this fis­cal year and $1.3 mil­lion an­nu­ally there­after.

The news of the Har­bour Grace clo­sure was a par­tic­u­lar shock, con­sid­er­ing that 1,362 cases were called there in the 2014-15 fis­cal year, ac­cord­ing to court statis­tics. That made it the third-busiest pro­vin­cial court in the prov­ince.

Goulding opted not to com­ment on the cuts. In­stead, she is fo­cus­ing on how best to fig­ure out the de­tails and how to han­dle the im­pact of the ex­tra caseload that will be trans­ferred from Har­bour Grace.

It will take months to come to de­ci­sions about said.

Goulding said Wabush will be ser­viced from Happy Val­leyGoose Bay, but it’s yet to be de­ter­mined how that will hap­pen.

She said the courts will avail of tech­nol­ogy - in par­tic­u­lar, vide­olinks - as much as pos­si­ble.

She said peo­ple in Har­bour Grace will likely have to come to ei­ther St. John’s or Clarenville.

“It will re­quire a lot of re­struc­tur­ing for our court sys­tem in this re­gion,” said Goulding, who has to make rec­om­men­da­tions to the jus­tice min­is­ter about mat­ters af­fect­ing the gen­eral ad­min­is­tra­tion and op­er­a­tion of the court.

“No plan has been put that, she in place as to how the cases in Har­bour Grace will be heard. It will be a tremen­dous chal­lenge for us.”

She ex­pects there will be sev­eral meet­ings with court ad­min­is­tra­tors and govern­ment of­fi­cials in the com­ing months.

A spokesman for the de­part­ment, Luke Joyce, said “the de­ci­sions to close court lo­ca­tions was not taken lightly.”

Joyce said there is ca­pac­ity at other pro­vin­cial court lo­ca­tions, in­clud­ing Clarenville and St. John’s, to han­dle the ex­tra caseload.

As well, he said, there may be a cir­cuit court in the com­mu­nity, “a de­ci­sion that will be made only af­ter con­sult­ing with the ju­di­ciary.”

TC ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

Pam Goulding is the chief judge for pro­vin­cial courts in New­found­land and Labrador.

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