The site is being prepared for the construction of the new $97-million Justice Centre, while preserving Red Deer’s historic Parsons House. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer’s new justice centre on track for summer construction start

$97-million justice centre to feature 12 courtrooms

Red Deer’s promised courthouse remains on track despite the provincial government’s tight finances.

It was previously announced that the estimated $97-million project was to be tendered this winter, aiming for a 2023 completion date.

That plan appears to be on schedule.

“Alberta Infrastructure is in the final stages of putting the Red Deer Justice Centre to construction tender,” said Hadyn Place, an Alberta Infrastructure spokesperson.

“A contract is expected to be awarded this spring with construction projected to begin in summer 2020,” said Place in an email.

“We understand the limitations of current justice facilities in Red Deer, and this project shows our commitment to addressing the vital infrastructure requirements of Central Alberta.”

Red Deer mayor says court case affected by prosecutor shortage

Demolition underway to make room for new courthouse

The new justice complex will have 12 courtrooms, with the capacity to increase it to up to 16 in the future. It will be built at 4811 49th St. on the site of the former downtown RCMP detachment office, which was demolished last spring.

A lack of court space has long been an issue in Red Deer.

And Mayor Tara Veer has highlighted the need for additional Crown prosecutors to reduce the backlog of cases being handled by overworked prosecutors. Red Deer is supposed to have about a dozen Crown prosecutors but is well short of that mark.

The provincial government has promised to hire 50 new Crown prosecutors, however, it is not known how many, if any, are destined for Red Deer.

Red Deer’s justice system limitations are reflected in long waits for multi-week trials or preliminary hearings.

Last October, the earliest date available for a complicated fraud trial expected to last seven weeks was March 2021.

In other cases, defence lawyers seeking speedier trials for their clients have applied to have the case moved to Calgary or Edmonton to get earlier dates.

A Red Deer provincial court judge pointed out the difficulty in booking lengthy proceedings within a reasonable time period when earlier this week a representative for an Edmonton lawyer wanted to book a five-week preliminary hearing for a Sylvan Lake man accused of murdering his wife.

The judge suggested the Crown prosecutor and defence lawyer meet with a judge in a pre-trial conference before setting preliminary hearing dates to hopefully reduce the time required.

“We’re terribly short of personnel and space. That’s the reason,” Judge David Plosz said of the pre-trial conference instruction.



pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

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