Surreyites of all business backgrounds gathered Tuesday morning to discuss the potential benefits of a community court in the city at the Surrey Board of Trade's Justice Summit.
About 50 businesspeople attended the summit at Eaglequest Golf Course for keynote speeches by Coun. Barinder Rasode and Geoffrey Cowper, a lawyer with the Fasken Martineau firm who has studied court reform.
Cowper highlighted the research he did in a recent report for Justice Minister Shirley Bond titled "A Criminal Justice System for the 21s Century" and made 40 recommendations on how to improve the system.
"The first report that I ran across that complained about unnecessary delay in the court system was 1641," he said. "There are parts of it that could've been written yesterday."
Cowper's report contains 40 recommendations to improve the local courts, including a criminal justice and public safety council within the Ministry of Justice, a provincial crime reduction plan and a web-based service that updates subscribers on developments in cases before the courts.
"These cases are taking longer and longer, and the numbers are astronomical," said Cowper of the time and money wasted on hold-ups and backlogs in the courts.
In reference to the Surrey Six trial - which was recently pushed back several months to September - Rasode told the Now that ongoing delays can put justice in jeopardy.
"With serious cases like this, we do put justice at risk and we also have a really improper way of dealing with both the families of the victims and with the witnesses whose lives are being so greatly impacted," she said.
During her keynote speech, Rasode focused on how a community court in Surrey would take on cases of domestic abuse and drug addiction, freeing up time in the provincial courts and allowing justice to be served more quickly throughout the system.
"Our plea here in Surrey is to put aside the process as it is now and to start based on our model. Our crime reduction strategy has been recognized by the solicitor general and we do believe ... that the province does need to look at a provincial crime reduction strategy."