B.C. launches Crown prosecutor hiring drive to help address repeat violent offending

A Crown prosecutor is pictured outside B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on July 28, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A Crown prosecutor is pictured outside B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on July 28, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

The British Columbia Prosecution Service has launched a recruitment drive for Crown lawyers and other staff, part of a series of recent measures to address repeat violent offending.

A statement from the service says it's aiming to hire up to 40 Crown counsel this year, some to fill vacancies created by the dedication of prosecutors to repeat violent offender response teams.

Those teams are part of the province's safer communities action plan launched by Premier David Eby soon after he was sworn in last November.

At the time, Eby said the plan has two key tracks: enforcement, recognizing "zero tolerance'' for violence in communities, and intervention, or preventing crime before it happens through services that address root causes.

Officials have said the response teams will consist of police, prosecutors and probation officers who will focus on repeat offenders, while the province also plans to add 12 mental health response teams, some Indigenous-led.

The service says it's looking for lawyers with at least six years of trial experience and preferably with expertise in criminal law.

"We are open to qualified applicants across the country," said Dan McLaughlin, spokesperson for the B.C. Prosecution Service.

According to McLaughlin, the service plans to have these new hires in their roles by this spring.

The job posting for Crown counsel to join the prosecution service shows openings in more than 20 communities from Metro Vancouver to Dawson Creek in northeastern B.C., with the potential for hiring in additional locations.

B.C Attorney General Niki Sharma had her attention on Dawson Creek this week.

She remotely attended a city council meeting Monday to discuss the provincial government's approach to crime and repeat offenders in the community after being invited by a group of business owners and residents concerned about crime rates in the city.

Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press
Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press

Mayor Darcy Dober says the biggest issue is repeat offenders and how much of the police force's time they take up and what he sees as a lack of accountability for their actions

"I feel that the AG understood some of the difficulties and restraints this puts on the RCMP to do their job properly," said Dober, speaking Tuesday on CBC's Daybreak North.

Dober said he is optimistic that the situation could improve after Sharma's appearance at council.

The Opposition Liberals have been critical of what they call the government's "catch-and-release'' policy on repeat violent offenders, citing incidents of people being arrested for alleged violent attacks and being released on bail soon after.

Eby has said the provincial action plan is needed in part because federal changes to the bail system have made it more difficult to hold people who commit repeat, violent offences in custody until they've stood trial.