This page provides general information about the BC Provincial Court’s criminal law work.
Under the Criminal Code of Canada, Provincial Court judges can conduct trials of all criminal matters except adults charged with murder and a few rare offences such as treason, piracy and inciting mutiny. In criminal cases:
While the Criminal Code requires that some offences (including less serious “summary conviction offences”) be tried in Provincial Court, it gives people charged with many more serious offences (“indictable offences”) the choice whether to have their trial in Provincial Court or in the Supreme Court of BC. If they choose (“elect”) the Supreme Court of BC they also choose whether to be tried there by a judge alone or a judge and jury. All jury trials take place in the Supreme Court of BC.
If an accused person chooses to be tried in the Supreme Court of BC, either they or the Crown prosecutor may request that a preliminary hearing (also called a “preliminary inquiry”) be held in Provincial Court. At the end of a preliminary hearing a Provincial Court judge does not decide on guilt, but only on whether there is sufficient evidence to send (“commit”) the accused to stand trial in the Supreme Court of BC.
Two federal statutes apply to most criminal matters before the Court:
In efforts to better meet the needs of First Nations communities and mentally disordered and substance addicted offenders, the Provincial Court has established a number of innovative specialized courts around the province.
The Court works hard to schedule trials without undue delay, but this is a constant challenge. For information on current initiatives designed to manage the Court’s case flow, see
Provincial Court Scheduling and Practice Directions issued by the Chief Judge.
This website provides general information only and should not be used as legal advice.
Updated February 2020