Veterans should have been able to attend Barb Gallant's court appearance, says P.E.I.'s top judge

Veterans who wanted to attend a provincial court appearance by former Summerside councillor Barb Gallant on Wednesday were likely not allowed into the courtroom due to safety concerns, says P.E.I.'s chief justice.

Wednesday was what's referred to as a docket day, when the accused make their first appearances, enter pleas or set trial dates.

These days can often be extremely busy with a long list of people sitting in the courtroom waiting for their case to be called, said Chief Provincial Court Judge Jeff Lantz.

He said there were about 65 cases on the docket Wednesday.

Judge Jeff Lantz says the number of individuals missing court appearances due to COVID symptoms or awaiting test results became "a little concerning"
P.E.I.'s Chief Justice Jeff Lantz says he's discussed moving Gallant's next court appearance, which is scheduled for July 3, to a different day. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC )

"We can't jam [the courtroom] to the point where it's unsafe or unwieldy," Lantz said.

Gallant was charged in April with one count of theft over $5,000 in relation to money missing from the accounts of the Lest We Forget Veterans Committee. She had been the committee's executive director, a volunteer position.

The case was adjourned, but only one veteran from the group assembled outside the courthouse was allowed inside to hear the brief proceedings Wednesday.

Court proceedings like docket days are typically open to the public.

Lantz said sheriff services likely made a snap decision to limit the number of people in the courtroom that day.

'Court should be open to everyone'

For Gallant's next appearance, Lantz said the court will make arrangements to accommodate more people.

"The court should be open to everyone, and I will try and accommodate everyone as best we can," Lantz said.

July 3, the date of Gallant's next appearance, is also a docket day.

"Given the level of interest in this case … it might be best to move it off docket [day] and that would allow more people to come in," Lantz said.