A major $24.3-million facility expansion is planned for the Surrey courthouse, the busiest provincial court location, the provincial government announced today.
The new building wing will consist of three additional courtrooms and two hearing rooms to provide justice officials with more capacity to exercise Surrey’s growing criminal caseload, which is the largest in the province.
“I welcome the news of the proposed expansion to the Surrey Courthouse,” said B.C. Provincial Court Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree in a release. “This increase in capacity, coupled with additional judicial appointments to preside in the new courtrooms, will enhance the court’s ability to provide timely access to justice for the people of Surrey and the adjoining municipalities served by this facility.”
Construction on the expansion is scheduled to begin in early-2016 for a late-2017 opening. Additional judges and staff will be needed to staff the new courtrooms.
The Surrey courthouse first opened in 1991 when the municipality’s population was about 210,000 people. Since then, Surrey’s population has bloomed to over 500,000 and another 300,000 is expected over the next 30 years.
“Government recognizes the pressures on courthouse facilities resulting from the rapid growth of the lower Fraser Valley’s population,” said Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton.
In the 2013 to 2014 fiscal year, the courthouse initiated over 15,500 new provincial court cases and had more than 92,300 provincial court appearances and nearly 15,000 court session hours. About 80 per cent of Surrey’s new cases were criminal court cases.
As of last year, the courtrooms were operating at 103 per cent capacity, which means longer-than-average sitting days.
In addition to the courthouse, Anton also revealed her plan to create an Integrated Services Network that will be managed by the City of Surrey. The network is designed to be a hub for all agencies involved with programs and services that combat Surrey’s crime issues.
This includes combining the administrative offices of the justice, health and social service agencies under one roof at Surrey’s old City Hall, which is located at the courthouse complex.