The Village of Ashcroft is making room for a new provincial Circuit Court in their Council Chambers, although no one is quite sure how it will look or whom it will serve once it’s finished.
Councillor Jerry Fiddick, a retired RCMP officer, has been pursuing the return of court to Ashcroft for the past two years. Although the province expressed little interest in establishing a new courtroom in town, the idea of videoconferencing apparently has its appeal.
A large requirement of a courtroom is security – ensuring public safety as well as the integrity of the equipment transmitting electronic data to the judges in Kamloops.
“We got a phone call last Fall saying they (the Attorney General’s office) were buying the equipment,” said Village Administrator Michelle Allen.
The equipment hasn’t arrived yet, but the chambers have now been wired for it and last week a dedicated internet service was installed.
Allen says they are assuming that all of the work is being done to set up a traffic court, but it could be for more than that.
There has been nothing official sent or received regarding how this process will work, she says.
The Ashcroft RCMP Detachment has lent its support to the return of court services to Ashcroft.
Sgt. Dave Prentice provided the Village with a letter over a year ago stating that having court in Kamloops cost the Ashcroft Detachment and Traffic Services an estimated $10,000 in 2009, factoring in salaries, overtime, fuel, meals, travel expenses and standby time for on call officers who filled in for those attending court.
Prentice stated that approximately 40 trips were made to Kamloops by the General Duty and Traffic Services members in 2009 for an estimated 160 man hours – the equivalent of having an officer out of the community for one month.
Allen says the province has heard what Ashcroft has been telling them and recognize that having the RCMP travel to Kamloops for court is a hardship on the entire community.
There are a lot of outstanding questions, she says, but we’re working with them.