Newfoundland lawyers to fight planned closure of historic Harbour Grace court

People living in Harbour Grace will now have to make the long and costly trek to a court in St. John’s.
People living in Harbour Grace will now have to make the long and costly trek to a court in St. John’s. (Photo: iStock)

Lawyers in Newfoundland are hopping mad over recently announced court closures and are planning to take the provincial government to court over the impending closing of the Harbour Grace court.

The provincial government announced in April that it planned to close four courts in the province. They recently changed their mind over two of those closures but the Harbour Grace court remains on the chopping block.

So why does the government want to close this specific court? Is it because there are not enough court cases being initiated at the court?

Conception Bay North area lawyer John Babb told VOCM Open Line with Jonathan Richler that the court was one of the busiest courthouses in the province. During the period of 2013-2014, over 1600 cases were started at the court, which is almost equal to the amount of court cases started in one of Newfoundland’s major cities, Gander.

What is the real reason for the court closure then?

The province claims that the court needs expensive repairs and that leasing space is expensive, too, and it would just be more cost effective to close the historic court that has been in business since 1807.

Cost effective for whom though?

People living in Harbour Grace will now have to make the long and costly trek to a court in St. John’s, over something as minor as a parking ticket or as major as a criminal charge.

Even people who live in areas like Bay de Verde would now have to travel to St. John’s, which for them is 175 kilometres away. It’s comparable to having to drive for two hours each way just for a court appearance.

Consequently, some people either won’t be able to afford or else just won’t bother making the trip, especially during winter when they’ll be forced to drive or bus through often brutal weather to get to a court for minor issues.

Not to mention that a court closure means other courts will be forced to carry the caseload, at a time when most courts already have backlogs, which means people face long delays in having their cases heard.

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