Crown prosecutors are having to do their part to uphold the criminal justice system with their hands tied behind their backs, says the president of the B.C. Crown Counsel Association.
Adam Dalrymple says the difficulties prosecutors face in the workplace – large caseloads, diminishing resources, outdated computers and inefficient databases – are contributing to widescale job burnout.
Dalyrmple points to a mental health survey of his membership this past spring which found 52 per cent of survey responses met the test for burnout, while low morale topped out at 42 per cent of responses.
“There is no question there is struggling going on at the frontlines right now,” Dalrymple said.
“It is a difficult position that prosecutors are in to take an oath to uphold the law and to do challenging work when you don’t have the resources technology or support staff… it feels like we are fighting a battle with both hands tied behind or backs.”
He says financial compensation is also a part of the frustration facing B.C. prosecutors, who have been without a contract since since 2019, the only union or professional association tied to the provincial government yet to reach a renewed agreement.
Dalrymple says the compensation model has been linked to wage increases in the judiciary branch since 2007 but the province so far has not committed to maintaining that standard.
“We remain hopeful despite how long these negotiations have been taking place,” said Dalrymple, noting a new bargaining session is slated for the first week of December.
While Dalyrmple was recently in Kelowna and Vernon to speak with local prosecutors, he says the issues of concern ring similar in courthouses across the province.
He said it has driven up attrition among experience prosecutors, who have either opted to retire or pursue other career options.
“It is getting harder and harder to recruit people to do this kind of challenging legal work particularly in this current climate,” he said.
Within the current political framework, Crown prosecutors find themselves caught in the middle between the demanding public citing constant shortfalls in the justice system and the government determining how to respond to those complaints.
And as greater demands are placed on Crown prosecutors by judges and defense lawyers for more pre-sentence and pre-trial reports, there is a shortfall of support staff resources and technology to meet that paperwork demand which becomes frustrating to keep pace with.
“I am now looking at people who are committed to their work, but saying to me I don’t know if I can continue to do this…in the 16 years I have been with the Crown Counsel office, I have never seen it this bad,” Dalrymple said.