The exterior view of the Surrey Courthouse expansion. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

$33.5M Surrey courthouse expansion officially opens

Renovations, announced in 2015, include new courtrooms, boosted security and a new Justice Access Centre

About three years after breaking ground, the newly renovated provincial courthouse in Surrey has officially opened.

Attorney General David Eby was in Surrey Friday (June 28) to give the media a tour of the $33.5 million expansion, along with Surrey-Panorama MLA Jinny Sims and Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh.

“Our government is committed to providing a justice system that serves all British Columbians,” said Eby. “The Surrey Courthouse has one of the largest caseloads in the province, and this expansion project will help deliver a court system that is able to hear and resolve these cases in a timely manner.”

According to a government release, the expansion includes three new courtrooms and two hearing rooms, including a high-security courtroom for “special-situation trials” and a high-volume courtroom for preliminary and bail features. These now accompany the previously existing 14 rooms in the provincial courthouse.

“New features, which are consistent with technology used by counsel and police, such as touch-screen monitors for advanced evidence presentation, are available in the new courtrooms,” a release states.

Other new courtroom features, according to a release, include enhanced video and audio feeds for the public and media to view evidence and courtroom proceedings from the public gallery and media room; videoconference equipment and audio recording systems that are “highly integrated with the evidence presentation system”; wheelchair-accessible witness boxes; and “barrier-free environments for the hearing impaired.”

Regional administrative judge Robert Hamilton said the new technology allows for more efficiency. The new courtrooms allow for people presenting to use their finger to draw on the computer (an example would be circling the location of an incident), which is then shown on monitors throughout the courtroom.

Previously, Hamilton said, the location would have been circled on individual pieces of paper and then distributed throughout the room.

“We can all see it on all of these cameras… It is a remarkable accomplishment just in terms of evidence presentation,” he said.

However, Hamilton said, there won’t be full retro-fitting to the 14 other courtrooms.

“It would also be a little premature for that. Let’s be honest, the legal business is still a paper-heavy business. The lawyers come with binders of paper. It will take a little bit of time, but eventually, they will come with evidence on a USB drive,” he said.

“This is the beginning of this.”

In an effort to boost building security, metal detectors and a “walkthrough personal screener” have been added to the court house’s entrance.

“A ballistic glass wall in the high-security courtroom divides the public gallery from the main courtroom,” the release adds.

READ MORE: Surrey’s courthouse to undergo $23.4-million expansion by 2017, March 19, 2015

homelessphoto

(Attorney General David Eby officially opens the Surrey courthouse expansion on Friday, June 28. Photo: Lauren Collins)

The expansion project also included a new Justice Access Centre (JAC), which will “provide comprehensive services designed to address family and civic non-family issues,” at a cost of $1.05 million to operate per year going forward.

Surrey’s courthouse was built in 1991 at 14340 57th Ave. It has the largest criminal caseload in the province and has the second-highest volume of provincial civil and small claims cases.

The provincial government says the Surrey Courthouse has the highest number of family and civil non-family issues in B.C.

Hamilton said Surrey has one of the “busiest” courthouses in all of Canada.

“Just to put this into perspective, every single day here in Surrey, we process between 300 and 350 criminal files; we accommodate between 60 and 100 prisoners; each week, we process in excess of 150 family files. Surrey needed this new wing,” Hamilton said.

Back in 2015, it was announced the courthouse would undergo a $24.3-million expansion. Construction was set to begin in 2016, with a completion date for 2017.

Then in 2016, when the previous provincial government broke ground, the expansion was expected to cost $33.5 million, with a completion date of “early 2018.”

Eby said the cause for delay was due to the previous government, which he said “hadn’t mocked up the courtrooms and gone through with court staff to make sure (the designs) would work properly.” He said this was done “in order to save money.”

“But this resulted in a delay in opening as we had to reconfigure some of the benches to make sure that the judges had proper line of sight.”

The project’s budget includes $27 million for construction and another $6.5 million for furniture and fittings, as well as design and municipal fees.

READ MORE: Surrey courthouse construction, renovations aim to shorten wait times, March 8, 2017

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Girls, women try their hand at marine rescue in Surrey

Achieve Anything Foundation, RCMSAR Crescent Beach host ‘Operation: This IS You! Saving Lives at Sea’

White Rock cadets nab medals at Vernon competition

Thirteen members of 907 Squadron compete at regional meet

Surrey boy living with congenital heart disease to speak at local Tedx event

Mason Vander Ploeg will be speaking on saving the oceans

VIDEO: 2020 BC Winter Games wrap up in Fort St. John as torch passes to Maple Ridge

More than 1,000 athletes competed in the 2020 BC Winter Games

Winds up to 70 km/hr expected across Metro Vancouver

Winds are expected to subside overnight

Still six cases of COVID-19 in B.C. despite reports of Air Canada passenger: ministry

Health ministry wouldn’t comment on specific flight routes

Violent ends to past Indigenous protests haunt Trudeau government

Trudeau adopted a more assertive tone Friday, insisting the barricade must come down

Fraser Health warns some schools of possible COVID-19 exposure

A sixth COVID-19 patient is a woman in her 30s in the Fraser Health region who recently returned from Iran

High-risk sex offender cuts off ankle bracelet, on the loose in Vancouver: police

Vancouver police said Kirstjon Olson, 38, is a provincial sex offender with 27 court-ordered conditions

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

Most Read

l -->