Why do judges sometimes say a number before imposing a court order?

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The Provincial Court of BC has developed standardized terms for family and criminal court orders. They are organized in “picklists” available on courtroom computers so a Court Clerk can use them to quickly and accurately capture the order a judge makes.

Picklists include number and letter codes that help the Court Clerk find a term quickly. When a judge decides to change the standard wording, a Court Clerk can edit the term accordingly. When a judge announces a number before imposing a court order, they are helping the Court Clerk locate the appropriate template for that order and note it accurately and efficiently.

The Court has just published revised Criminal Picklists containing standard wording for bail, probation, and conditional sentences as well as associated orders like driving and firearms prohibitions. Revising picklists originally adopted in 2017 was a mammoth project involving the collaborative efforts of people representing all parts of British Columbia’s justice system. In 2018, those efforts led to the group receiving the Justice and Public Safety Sector Award for Collaboration.

Led by Judges Greg Koturbash, Richard Hewson, Catherine Crockett., Mariane Armstrong, and members of the Provincial Court’s Criminal Law Committee, the project received input from across the justice system, including many Provincial Court Judges and Judicial Justices, defence lawyers, Federal and Provincial Crown Counsel, Community Corrections, various policing agencies, a plain language advisor, and the BC government’s Court Services Branch.

OCJ managers and staff including Kate Waybourne, Katherine Kwon, Jaeden Wocknitz, and Heather Henshaw provided invaluable support by compiling, proof reading and distributing the lists to courtrooms throughout the province.

The 2017 picklists have been referred to favourably in rulings from the BC Court of Appeal. They assist judges to craft clear and enforceable orders from the bench in busy courtrooms and Court staff to record and produce them quickly and accurately. In registries where picklists are used regularly, the time to process orders and their accuracy has improved exponentially. Clerks are no longer required to listen to digital recordings to try and decipher what the judge said.

The revisions reflect recent amendments to the Criminal Code, including changes to the language used when making release orders following bail hearings. Feedback from some judges indicated that the wording of some conditions in the 2017 version was cumbersome, and that wording has been improved. Some conditions have been judicially considered, and where necessary or appropriate, those conditions have been redrafted to reflect appellate rulings. However, the headings and numbering scheme will be familiar to users of the previous version because they have not changed.

The revised Criminal Picklists are available on the Court’s website at Picklists - Standardized wording for bail & sentence orders. Lawyers can personalize the Word documents by editing the list to include conditions proposed in a particular case.

Find picklists for Family Law Act orders at Picklists - Standard Wording of Family Court Orders. The Court’s Criminal Law Committee is currently working on picklists for Youth Court.