Traffic changes coming to Stettler’s courthouse

Written by Stu Salkeld

An effort to essentially increase the amount of trial time at the Stettler courthouse appears to have borne fruit, although not exactly the way supporters hoped.

In a separate story the ECA Review newspaper reported efforts by crown prosecutors and others to introduce a new, separate day at the Stettler courthouse for traffic matters
Several local councils including the Town of Stettler and the Village of Alix voiced support for this change.

However, in a recently released memo central region Assistant Chief Justice Robin Snider announced the following changes to the way the Stettler courthouse operates: beginning May 28 every fourth Tuesday is now designated for criminal and provincial statute trial matters; as well, beginning June 13 every second and fourth Thursdays will be designated for criminal and provincial docket court which simply put means non-trial matters such as first appearances, pleas, bail hearings, etc.

The changes were confirmed Jan. 30 by a call to the Red Deer courthouse.

Retired RCMP officer Ed Cole, who also works as a traffic agent in court and is an Alix village councillor, stated in a phone call Jan. 30 that the issue popping up at the Stettler courthouse wasn’t new and that’s because one day of court scheduled to handle all criminal and provincial statute matters, including traffic, often wasn’t enough time to get everything done.

He noted the changes aren’t exactly what was requested, but they may address the issue of too much court work and not enough court time.

“So that might kind of help to clear the backlog,” said Cole.

Cole stated crown prosecutors in Alberta are overwhelmed with workload and understandably when court time is limited and there are both criminal matters and traffic matters, the criminal, including charges like attempted murder and sexual assault, must take precedence.

Cole explained sometimes this means that police officers or other witnesses arrive at court for traffic trials in Stettler at 10 a.m. and by 5 p.m. the trial hasn’t taken place; in some instances, noted Cole, a deal is negotiated between the crown and accused to resolve the traffic matter.

He pointed out while some traffic issues may seem minor to the average person, such as a basic speeding ticket or parking infraction, some of them can be quite serious, including speeding in a school zone, speeding at least 50 km/hr over the posted limit, driving while suspended or careless driving and Cole stated some in the court system felt a dedicated traffic day would give traffic issues the time they deserved.

Cole noted this is where the idea for a dedicated traffic court day at the Stettler courthouse was conceived, and as Thursday was the usual court day in Stettler, other options such as Wednesday were open and available.

However, Cole acknowledged that just because one day of the week is open at the courthouse doesn’t mean every other resource needed by criminal and provincial court is also available, including police, crowns, lawyers, agents, accused, advisors, witnesses and court staff.

Cole noted, as an elected councillor, he supported a dedicated traffic day because it tends to result in firmer sentences for the accused which he based on his work as an RCMP officer and traffic agent.

Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
ECA Review


About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.