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Thursday, July 7, 2016

July 7, 2016

 

For Immediate Release

 

 

 

Harbour Grace Court Closure Was Not Evidence-based

 

 

 

Paul Davis, Leader of the Official Opposition, said, “The Ball Liberals’ decision to close the Harbour Grace court was not evidence-based and failed to take into consideration the impact on people, and access to justice.” Davis visited the Harbour Grace / Carbonear region on Tuesday to speak with people about the impacts of the impending court closure. He said people are concerned and upset.

 

 

 

“The evidence for not closing the court was easy to find, if the government had bothered to look. It is included in the usage statistics reported annually by the province’s courts, which show that caseloads at the Harbour Grace court have risen steadily and significantly for the past 10 years. From 2012-13 to 2013-14, the number of court appearances rose from 6,139 to 8,937 for adult cases, from 330 to 480 for youth cases, from 133 to 195 for small claims cases, and from 136 to 235 for family cases. These reports take into account applications, peace bonds, support, custody, wardship, adoption and apprehension procedures. The evidence represents a steady and significant increase in demand for services that the Liberal government intends to take away from the people of the region, forcing citizens and police to travel or else do without access to justice,” he said.

 

“The Liberals did not take the time to consider the impacts the closure of courts will have. The province’s Bar Association has made it clear that access to justice depends on maintaining courthouses outside larger urban centres, and that court closures undermine access to justice, particularly for the most vulnerable and impoverished. Other courts are already very busy, meaning not just greater costs for people, but greater delays in accessing the courts for justice and protection. The Status of Women’s Council has said closing rural courts will have a devastating effect on women experiencing domestic violence. Why is people’s access to justice not a priority for the Ball Liberals?” Davis asked.

 

 

 

“Minister Andrew Parsons misled people about the costs of keeping the Harbour Grace court open because he failed to take into account the proposal the town submitted for an alternate court location in the region. He was unwilling to listen and turned the town’s proposal down flat,” said Davis. “The Minister exempted the Stephenville court, nearest to his own district, but did not show the same consideration to the people of the Harbour Grace region.”

 

 

 

Davis said more cuts may be pending. “What’s next on the chopping block this fall? Will there be cuts to victim services, legal aid and public prosecutions to even further reduce people’s access to justice? In light of the decisions already made, people have no confidence the Liberals will make sensible choices. Just like the Liberals’ decisions on libraries, the levy, the HST and so forth, the Harbour Grace court closure decision was not thought out in advance. It’s going to have a significant impact on the lives of many people, and that raises serious questions about how the Liberal government arrived at the choices they made.”

 

 

 

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Media Contact: Heather MacLean, Director of Communications, Office of the Official Opposition, (709) 729 6105, heathermaclean@gov.nl.ca

 

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