In BC, most court cases are heard in Provincial Court - including all civil lawsuits for claims less than $25,000 (“Small Claims”), about 50% of all family law cases, most traffic & bylaw matters, most criminal cases, and most cases involving young offenders.
About 99% of all criminal cases in BC begin and end in Provincial Court. The court hears trials of crimes such as theft under $5000, which is the formal name for shoplifting. It also hear trials for mischief, simple assaults and more serious crimes like aggravated sexual assault or kidnapping where the accused chooses to have his or her trial in this court. If the accused is proven guilty or pleads guilty, then the court does sentencing hearings.
A much smaller number of criminal cases are heard in the Supreme Court. It is the Supreme Court that hears all the jury trials. Provincial Court judges sit alone, never with a jury. The Provincial Court hears all criminal matters, except murder committed by adults.
If the accused person is charged with a more serious crime such as manslaughter, break and enter or kidnapping, the accused has the right to choose to have a trial in Provincial Court or Supreme Court. To learn more, see Crime.
The Provincial Court hears virtually all criminal cases involving youth from ages 12 to 17, and that includes a charge of murder. The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) applies to youth who commit crime. Children under 12 cannot be charged with a criminal offence.
The YCJA requires that youths be treated separately from adults. When dealing with youth, there must be an emphasis on:
To learn more about youth and crime, see Young Offenders.
The Provincial Court of BC hears about half of all family matters in the province. Most of the family cases are about separation. However, cases involving divorce, adoptions or the division of family property are heard in BC Supreme Court.
Family Court helps families solve problems when children have been neglected or abused or when there are issues arising from a family breakup.
Very few family cases go to trial – only about 6%. The large majority of family disputes get resolved by an agreement between the parties that is developed with the help of lawyers and encouraged by court resources such as parenting education courses, meetings with Family Justice Counsellors and mediation services. TO learn more, see the Legal Help Guides for Family.
With a few exceptions, the Provincial Court hears most kinds of civil disputes, such as claims for debt or damages, construction disputes, personal injury claims, recovery of personal property or enforcement of agreements or contracts involving personal property or services.
Claims such as builder's liens, bankruptcy, wills and estates, libel or slander, or suing the federal government all have to be heard by a Supreme Court judge.
All of the procedures in Small Claims Court are designed to be simple and something that ordinary people can understand. You can have a lawyer in Small Claims Court, but most of the time, people represent themselves. To learn more, visit SmallClaimsBC.ca.
|Court Locations||Small Claims Court|
|Court Judgments||· SmallClaimsBC.ca|
|Young Offenders||· Court Rules|
|Frequently Asked Questions||· Court Forms|
|Traffic & Bylaw Matters||· Daily Court List|
|· Traffic Disputes||Criminal Court|
|Family Court||· Criminal Code|
|· Family Law Act||· Court Forms|
|· Justice BC||· Daily Court List|
|· Court Forms||· Justice BC|
|· Family Maintenance Enforcement Program|
Last reviewed: March 2016
IMPORTANT: This page provides legal information, not legal advice. If you need legal advice consult a lawyer.
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