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Province cuts court fees

VANCOUVER - B.C. is moving ahead with changes aimed at increasing access to the justice system, the province announced today.

The new measures, including lower court fees and efforts to limit unwieldy legal processes, are meant to answer criticisms that the court system has stretched beyond the reach of the average citizen.

Starting July 1, 2010, litigants in civil and family cases will be allowed three days of trial before being charged court fees. Additional reforms involve fast-tracking civil trials by limiting some legal processes.

"For too many people, access to the courts has become unaffordable," B.C. Attorney General Mike de Jong said during a press conference today.

A sampling of current B.C. Supreme Court costs:

- Commencing a proceeding: $208
- File statement of defence and counterclaim: $208

- Hearing a trial less than half day: $156

- For the first 5 days: $312 daily

- Each additional day after 5: $416

- Each additional day after 10: $624

In the last decade, the number of trials at the B.C. Supreme Court level has halved, while trials that do go ahead have doubled in length. It's a sign, said former Attorney General Wally Oppal, that elements of the system have become outdated.

"Fewer people are finding our courts accessible to solve their problems," Oppal said. "If that happens, our courts...will have lost the confidence of the public."

But opposition NDP justice critic Leonard Krog said the moves came up short.

"There's no money here this morning for legal services," Krog said.

Irwin Loy reports for 24 Hours Vancouver. 

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