Le­gal ac­tion forth­com­ing on Har­bour Grace court clo­sure

The Compass - - NEWS - BY ANDREW ROBIN­SON TC ME­DIA edi­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

A group of lawyers prac­tic­ing in the Trin­ity-Con­cep­tion-Pla­cen­tia area is con­sid­er­ing le­gal ac­tion as a means to pre­vent govern­ment from elim­i­nat­ing court­house ser­vices in Har­bour Grace.

Con­cep­tion-Trin­ity-Pla­cen­tia Bay Re­gion Ac­cess to Justice Com­mit­tee Inc. is com­prised of six lawyers from the area. Its name closely re­sem­bles that of the Burin Penin­sula-ClarenvilleBon­av­ista Penin­sula Ac­cess to Justice Com­mit­tee Inc. That group filed an ap­pli­ca­tion in the Supreme Court of New­found­land and Labrador dis­put­ing the le­gal­ity of govern­ment de­ci­sion to close Supreme Court in Grand Bank.

Vet­eran Car­bon­ear de­fence lawyer John Babb, who is also a for­mer re­gional Crown at­tor­ney, said his group is pre­par­ing to take sim­i­lar steps to pre­vent Har­bour Grace Pro­vin­cial Court from clos­ing.

“It’s im­mi­nent. Un­less there’s a change, it’s go­ing to be im­mi­nent,” Babb, one of four com­mit­tee di­rec­tors, told The Com­pass re­gard­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of le­gal ac­tion.

The group’s ob­jec­tions cen­tre in on the process used to make the de­ci­sion to close, fair ac­cess to justice and ju­di­ciary in­de­pen­dence.

“It’s a case where those types of de­ci­sions should be made by an in­de­pen­dent en­tity,” said Babb, who con­tends the justice min­is­ter’s power through the bud­get to close court­houses amounts to en­croach­ment on ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence.

The ac­cess to justice is­sue ties into the in­creased cost the gen­eral pub­lic will be bur­dened with when try­ing to make use of the sys­tem. Babb ex­pects mov­ing cases to St. John’s will place a strain on all par­ties who work in the court sys­tem, in­clud­ing lawyers, po­lice of­fi­cers and so­cial work­ers.

“It’s just a de­nial of rea­son­able ac­cess to justice, given the dis­tances and time and ex­pense and ev­ery­thing that they have to travel.”

Last month, govern­ment an­nounced Supreme Court in Grand Bank and Grand Falls-Wind­sor would re­main open, as a pro­posal from Supreme Court iden­ti­fied ways to save $74,000 an­nu­ally.

The court­house in Har­bour Grace is sched­uled to close by the end of July, and court­house staff re­ceived lay­off no­tices last Wed­nes­day.

Ac­cord­ing to Babb, the group fight­ing the Grand Bank court­house clo­sure dropped their ac­cess to justice ar­gu­ment af­ter the de­ci­sion to close was re­versed, though they are still pur­su­ing the ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence mat­ter in court.

The pres­ence of a court­house in Har­bour Grace dates back to 1807. The his­toric court­house, built in 1830, was the old­est pub­lic build­ing in use prior to govern­ment de­cid­ing to move ser­vices to the Babb Build­ing in Har­bour Grace at the start of 2016 due to struc­tural con­cerns.

Pro­pos­als to keep the court­house open while find­ing oth­ers ways to save money were pre­sented, but govern­ment re­jected them.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.