VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The lawyer who was hired to try and make BC’s justice system more efficient is floating a few ideas in an interim report released on Friday.

Geoffrey Cowper is looking at reducing the number of appearances an accused makes before going to trial and imposing deadlines to unclog backlogged courts in the province.

“I think the public wants to be assured that there’s an overall plan,” Cowper says.  “I think what the public has seen overall is a number of different actors trying to do their best.”

Several cases have been thrown out of BC courts because the accused has waited too long to go to trial.

Earlier this month, assault charges were stayed against a Surrey Mountie accused of roughing someone up in the back of a police cruiser in 2009.

“I think Crown, defence counsel and judges all agree that if you can get early dates, that helps with early resolutions and it helps people move on with their lives,” Cowper says.  “One of the central things that is being looked at, and I’m not the only person looking at it, is potential changes to the criminal process to try and streamline it and take out the tendency in our current system to have many, many appearances which don’t advance the case toward resolution or to trial.”

NDP Justice Critic Leonard Krog says the report doesn’t address the most glaring issue BC’s justice system is facing.

“This is not going to solve the dramatic backlog of cases that are going to be dismissed because they’re not heard in a timely matter,” Krog says.  “Regardless of what the long-term solutions may be, the lack of provincial court judges is a serious problem.  The number of cases is building, not reducing, and that’s because we don’t have the judges and the resources to hear cases in a timely way.”

Krog says the report is also too vague to offer many real solutions.

“There are not a lot of substantive suggestions, and candidly, given the time and the budget allotted for Mr. Cowper’s work, my expectations were never very high,” Krog says.  

Cowper has more than a hundred meetings with people in the court system, the Crown, victims’ advocates, police and others since he started his work in February.

He’s accepting submissions until June, 30.

His final report has to be submitted by the end of July.