Court hearings for traffic infractions in the Red Deer region are being moved out of the courthouse and into a downtown hotel.
Lawyers and courthouse staff learned on Monday that, effective April 1, traffic court for the Red Deer will be held at the Lodge Hotel, said Chris Rickards, president of the Central Alberta Bar Association.
The move means Courtroom 101 will be available for criminal matters one more day each week. But the move will have little if any impact on family court, said Rickards.
“The plan for 101 is that that’s going to be come a disposition, bail, fresh arrest court on Mondays,” he said.
“I think it’s a good measure. There are some things we still have to figure out. Are they going to have the same security that we have at the Red Deer Courthouse over at the Red Deer Lodge? We’ll see how the Red Deer Lodge appreciates having the number of people that will be there on Monday morning, who are not there to buy their buffet or whatever.”
Certainly, there will be more access to free parking than there is in the city core, he said.
While the move will alleviate some overcrowding in Red Deer’s justice system, it does not address long-range problems, said Rickards.
“We are still pushing for expansion, because . . . it is a stop-gap measure. The long range has to be . . . a new courthouse in Red Deer.”
Rickards warned that Red Deer could experience the same problems that arose in Calgary before its new courthouse was built. Various courtrooms were located in various parts of the downtown, as far as eight blocks apart. Small claims cases would be lost and warrants issued for people who were late for court because they had gone to the wrong site.
Retired Justice Jim Foster — who has been working with the local bar association and the City of Red Deer in proposing a new courthouse — said he continues to push the Justice minister and the Treasury Board to move ahead on an offer from the city.
The proposal would see the city convert the existing courthouse into an office building while the former RCMP building on 49th Street could be given to the province for construction of a new courthouse.
A private developer would be sought to lease the land from the province, build a courthouse and then lease the building back to Alberta Justice.
“I’m a little disappointed that this (new) courthouse isn’t moving along,” Foster said on Monday.
“I understood that this was on the agenda for Treasury Board. From my discussions with the minister’s office (last week), that’s certainly true, but they’re still looking at the possibility of apparently combining Red Deer with other courthouses on a P3 package, which I think is unnecessary.”
Foster said he and a consultant from Stantec have costing data that would prove to the minister and the Treasury Board that a courthouse in Red Deer would be large enough to be viable and competitive on its own, without waiting for other courthouse projects to materialize.
“At the end of the day, we’re still looking at, I think, a 16-courtroom facility with 30,000 square metres, which is three times the size we have today,” he said.