Covid 19 Video Centre
Covid 19 And The Ontario Criminal Court System
Obviously the Covid-19 Pandemic has had a great effect on the world and of course on Canadian society. It has also tremendously affected our court system across the country including in Ontario.
There’s been a lot of misinformation though about the effect on the court system and for this reason I wanted to do a series of videos on just how has the covid pandemic affected the court system in Ontario and that is the criminal court system. Some of the topics I will be talking about are on the effect on out-of-custody criminal cases, in-custody criminal cases, domestic assault, sexual assault and impaired driving, which are some of the key charges in our justice system. I’m also going to be talking about how our courts and that is the Ministry of Attorney General has worked very hard to modernize our court system with new technology and to deal with the virtual reality.
I really want to hope that you stay safe and well during the covid pandemic and I really hope that you enjoy these videos and find them helpful for the legal situation you are particularly facing.
Covid 19 Pandemic’s Impact On Domestic Assault Cases In Ontario
Covid 19 Pandemic’s Impact On In Custody Criminal Cases
I’m here to talk to you about how the COVID-19 pandemic has effected in custody criminal cases in our Ontario criminal court system. And I want to just define in custody, so in custody would be a person who is charged with a criminal offence, arrested and did not get bail. In other words, their sitting, languishing in jail waiting for their guilty plea or trial. As you are probably aware over the course of the summer since March, our court system was paused to a certain extent at least, and people who had trial schedules, say a murder case, sexual assault, other case, drug cases, who waiting for their trial for months and sometimes a year or two, they couldn’t have their trial, so that was a tremendous, emotional, psychological, worry and we were very concerned about the pandemic getting into our jail system. So what effect did that have? Well it had a number of effects. First of all, people who were charged or arrested with a criminal offence, Justice of the Peaces and Judges were more incline to grant them bail after a bail hearing. There was some degree of leniency there. Because we were trying to get people out of the jail system so we didn’t’ have the pandemic spread in the jail. So that was one effect. Another, the Crown Attorneys were concerned about people languishing in custody and concerned about the perception of delay because trials were getting backlogged. So certainly, good deals were being offered. There was some degree of leniency being offered. For example, a person facing months in jail, many months, they might reduce that sentence slightly or by some months, although there were a lot of great deals being offered to remove this backlog. The real worry were of course, people sitting there, “well I want to have a trial, I’m innocent, I deserve my right to a trial” Those trial could be, taken, you know gone, they weren’t being done, so their sitting there languishing there. Now on July sixth we started trials in the Ontario Court of Justice and also the Superior Court of Justice so in a way, most of the court houses they’ve renovated some of the trial courts. So now, in custody accused, that is people who are sitting waiting in our county jails, they can resume their trials on July sixth, but the problem is again, we only have a limited number of room in the courtrooms, the Crown Attorneys are going to have to prioritize those cases and delay may ultimately emerge. We don’t know for sure but there’s a real perception of that. So it has been quite a problem for people sitting in custody waiting, a lot of worry, a lot of psychological effect, but on the other side of the coin, there’s been a good benefit to them that weren’t released on bail, and there’s been greater deals and thankfully at least our criminal system is starting up again at least in a limited way. And hopefully we can move the trials to an early resolution very soon.
Covid 19 Protocol For Criminal Cases In The Ontario Court Of Justice
I want to give you an overview today about the COVID-19 pandemic protocol, in the criminal court of the Ontario Court of Justice. It’s a fairly complicated topic and I really encourage you to look at the Ontario Court of Justice website because it will give all the details. I’m just going to hit some of the highlights here for you, so you understand what’s going on and what went on as of July sixth. So what happened this spring, as you know obviously, the pandemic hit and the courts were really paused in quite a way in the Ontario Court of Justice So, what was happening is between. March fifteenth and July sixth, all trials were suspended, they were paused, no trials took place in the Ontario Court of Justice, and what happened was they were still trying to move other cases though, for example, the courts were very concerned about the people in custody. Waiting for their trials, waiting to plead guilty, bail hearings, so peoples’ languishing in the jails, they couldn’t have their trial. So that’s all been put over, that’s all been put over for July sixth on. Those people in custody, bail hearings were taking place virtually, that is, by Zoom or video conference, JVN technology, so a lot of people were getting released, more than normal. Guilty pleas were still taking place obviously, those people wanted to plead guilty they needed to get out of custody or get their jail term served. But trials didn’t take place, so that was very concerning. Now, for out of custody people, that is people who had been arrested, but released on bail conditions, no trials were taken place between March fifteenth and July sixth. Only urgent guilty pleas, were going on initially. Give you an example of urgent are, there’s a limitation period for DUI’s, that was considered urgent, so that was taken place virtually. I can give you other examples, but it was only urgent guilty pleas which, and not many matters are urgent, frankly for a person out of custody, whether they are facing a jail term or not. It could wait. Not much else was going on for those out of custody matters, you could trial, but if you hired a lawyer, you could completely do the normal steps of a file. Your matter was going over presumptively, that is, automatically, ten weeks from particular dates and that was all set out on websites. So some cases went over two ten week increments, in fact, beyond July sixth. Right now, the presumptive matters, adjournments were out of custody matters, are continuing up to August twenty-one. That’s the new protocol that’s going on. So firms such as ours, you know, we were able to still do all the normal steps, on a client’s file, get it ready for a plea, in many cases were doing out of custody pleas. For example, the courts were accepting virtual pleas by teleconference, or video conference, that is Zoom or JVN technology for matters where the person was not facing jail term. So the client would be on the phone with the lawyer, with the judge at home, court clerk and all done probation, fines, not jail term stuff. Now, fortunately, the courts have opened up now in a limited way, this started on July sixth, the courts really modernized by the way, brought in a lot of new technology, brought ourselves in the twenty first century. The Ministry of the Attorney General can be commended for that. In about ninety-three Ontario Court of Justice offices in the province, courtrooms were renovated for safety, for plexi-glass, social distancing, limited number of people in the courtroom. So for each courthouse, we’re starting, that this has been done, not every county did it by the way but many. We’ve resumed trials. So trials started up again on July sixth. The problem is, let’s just take a couple of different courthouses, three for example, three of our offices for example, Kitchener, London, Windsor, many trials run every day there but they only renovated about two courtrooms each, please so, there’s still, there’s this delay problem, they can’t handle all the work, they have to give priority to in custody trials, so there’s still problems going on, they are slowly going roll out those renovations, they are doing it fairly safely, it appears that it is pretty safe in the court . So that’s kind of a sense of what’s going on, we can still do non urgent, or urgent guilty pleas, out of custody matters, as long as you are not facing a jail term, So that’s a lot of cases, now bear in mind, ninety percent, at least not ninety-five percent of the criminal cases are guilty pleas so we can still continue with a lot of those. There’s some great deals happening though. There’s no question, you will hear that in some of the other videos. The Crowns are concerned about delay issues, so they are giving a lot of great deals on everything from DUI, domestic assaults, drug cases, that they ordinarily would not give. But now we are getting priority to the in custody people. These people need their trial. Trials have now resumed. So you can you can set a trial date and it’s a great time to hire a lawyer now, there’s no question about that. Great time to hire a lawyer for many reasons and the principal one is a lot of great deals. Your lawyer can get you set up to set a trial date, and there may, we don’t know for sure, there may be Charter 11 (b) delay problems down the road. We don’t know if cases are going to get thrown out, but because of this, the Crowns are really coming to grips with their cases. But the other wonderful thing that the courts have done, this virtual technology is wonderful in my mind, and they’ve done a great job of really modernizing our court system, we are very happy about that. But it’s going to take some time. There’s a new normal here. The practice of criminal law will never be the same. And we may be left with a lot of virtual reality going forward, to a certain extent, if not completely, who knows because for example, you have the right for virtual trial which is very interesting and some of those are going on and that’s going to be a topic of another video, virtual trials as well. So that’s basically in a very condensed nutshell what’s going on with the Ontario Court of Justice, if you want to read through the fifty pages of Notices, you should , especially if you are charged because that will tell you the details about your particular case.
Covid 19 Protocol For Criminal Cases In The Superior Court Of Justice
I am here to talk to you today about the pandemic protocol in the Superior Court of Justice for criminal cases. This all started about mid-March or so and obviously the pandemic hit, the COVID-19 pandemic, so the Ministry of the Attorney General said, “what do we need to do with the court system, we can’t have people coming into the court until we get this all sorted out”. What happened is they largely paused the Superior Court of Justice criminal cases in many aspects. For example, for both in custody, that is people who is sitting in jail, and out of custody cases, is people who are released and waiting for trial, all those trials were suspended. They went over, so it’s creating this great back log of delay, there was great concerned for the people in custody, they were waiting for their trial, they are waiting to plead guilty, they are waiting for bail, they are waiting for a bail review, they are waiting for their appeal. Some of those matters were able to proceed, they were able to proceed obviously with guilty pleas because that was urgent, they weren’t able to proceed with trials, they did some appeals. So that all went on over the course of the spring and summer. But for non-urgent matters out of custody, nothing much happened with those particular cases. There was an opportunity to plead guilty, certainly in some sense virtually, but not in a limited way, and each region had different protocols, that you should read about and open up different aspects. So it’s very complicated website, you would have to spend a couple of hours reading it, I encourage you to . But the bottom line is trails were suspended and limited guilty pleas except for in custody matters, now those are essential, those are urgent, they needed to take place and that went on. Now there’s great deals to be had, I might add, because of the perceived back log, that is creating a cascading cases of “when are we going to get to all these trials?” More recently, they announced the resumption of trials, criminal trials in the Superior Court of Justice on July sixth, the problem is, there was only about fifty-three courtrooms renovated so far. That’s a very small sub set of the number of courtrooms in the province first of all. And bear in mind, Superior Court of Justice serves, divorce cases and civil cases, so those cases have to be shared. But criminal cases take priority, and of course, people in custody, they need their trials. You know, they are just languishing, that started on July sixth. Guilty pleas or in custody people, obviously appeals, bail reviews, depending on the county, so you will have to look at all the different regions and the Notices. The Notices go on for pages and pages on the website but, the bottom line is the courts are back open in a limited way, it was very much paused this summer, the Superior court that is and the Ontario Court of Justice. However, criminal lawyers, were able to still take normal steps on files and move files, resolve cases, in some cases, do guilty pleas, and now that the courts are open, I am really hoping they can move the back log of cases or there’s going to be some huge delay problems with that. So anyway, that’s an overview of that, and I encourage you to read the website, particularly as it applies to your case, or you have a relative and friend in custody, you can read it for them, and discuss it with them. You know, it’s probably the best time to hire a lawyer with deals going on, the delay issues, there’s a lot problem in the court system, but I will get a shout out to the government I think they are doing a commendable job making the limited number of courtrooms open in a safe manner with cleanliness, social distancing in place , plexi-glass, and really they should be commended for doing that, and hopefully going forward we can re-open the courtrooms in a safe way and get the back log moving.
Covid 19’s Impact On Out Of Custody Criminal and DUI Cases
Covid 19’s Impact On Out Of Custody Sexual Assault Cases In Ontario
I want to talk to you today about how the COVID-19 pandemic has effected out of custody sexual assault cases of Ontario. First of all, let me define out of custody cases. Out of custody means you have been arrested but you received bail, so you are out in society. You are not sitting in jail, waiting for your trial. So basically, I want to talk to you about minor sexual assault case. First of all, I fully realize that anyone does any sexual assault, no matter how minor, is very serious. But let’s talk about for example of a fleeting buttock grab at a bar or a fleeting type in a case where a man, unfortunately and unwantedly touches a woman’s breast for example. In those types of cases, even on a normal day, you can sometimes avoid a jail term. It’s on a copse as to whether a person is facing a short jail term or not. With the COVID pandemic going on, the court system as you know, was paused from March until July 6, 2020. By the way, it’s only open in a limited way right now. We just have a limited trials going on. But there has been a great perception of a cascading delay of cases, this backlog of cases, and due to that, the Crown Attorneys are doing a number of things. Number one, they have to come to grips with their cases. If they got a sexual assault case, they’re going to ask themselves, and this is the test in Ontario, “Is there any reasonable prospect of conviction?” In other words, if it’s such a weak case, that they can’t win, why are they running it? That’s the normal test and that’s a test that should always be applied first of all. But politically, if you look at it, sometimes it’s difficult to for the Crown to pull a case frankly, I use to be a Crown Attorney, I had the difficulty of doing that for various reasons. Number one, some Crowns are inexperienced, so they can’t assess the case properly. Even an experience Crown might say to themselves, rather than face the wrath of the victim who is pushing me to proceed with this case, do I really want to proceed and tie up, you know, court time, in limited courts where the case is, I know, I am going to lose? That’s going to be the conversation the Crowns are going to have across the province, and that is happening right now frankly, with all the criminal cases, they have to do this, and it’s quite right and proper, if there’s no way of winning a case, then why are we running it. So that’s one point. The other point so, let’s take that minor case that I talked about, so that’s a case where the Crown Attorney might say to himself, well look, I’m going to ask for a short jail term, or I am going to ask for no jail term, a fine, probation, maybe even a conditional discharge, in the right case. What I have found, is for our minor cases, some sexual assault cases, we were getting reasonable resolutions the Crown’s knew that they had move those cases, they said to themselves, we had no idea when the trials are going to take place, this could result in other cases that are more serious getting thrown out. So there were good deals to be had on minor cases and they are, so it’s a good time to hire a lawyer right now. For a more serious sexual assault cases beyond that, there’s not a lot of room for the Crown to maneuver. They are not going to be offering deals on rape cases where a person, you know, date rape range is two to three years in Ontario. They are not going to be offering, you know deals on that. They are going to be assessing the cases. So there’s no question, if there’s no reasonable prospect. And I say “no reasonable prospect of conviction” because that’s the test, okay, they have to come to grips with that. But there is still, obviously there’s a great benefit on any sexual assault case, if you want to defend it, you need to hire a lawyer, and the other thing is, our court system was paused but for those people who hired a lawyer this summer on a sexual assault case, and we have many clients like that, we were able to move their file. It takes weeks to get a case ready to set for trial. So if you sat in your hands and you didn’t hire a lawyer well now you are hiring a lawyer, it’s going to take fourteen, sixteen, eighteen, twenty weeks for the lawyers’ ready to set it for trial date. So that delay if I might put it that way, is kind of on you. If delay emerges in this system, and it may or may not, there’s a perception it will, it might not, we don’t know, it’s early days right now, you’ll be in a better position to argue delay, if you are able to go to the courts and say look I moved this file, my lawyer did, I am ready to set a trial date, I want the earliest trial date as possible, and they say to you , for example in August, we can’t offer you a trial date for over eighteen months, well guess what, you could potentially win the case, for delay. So there’s all sorts of reason to hire a lawyer to defend your case, to get a great deal, to take advantage of delay if it emerges, and that’s what’s basically going on with our clients and the court system. The message I want to leave you with is don’t delay, hire a lawyer now, it is never been a better time to hire a lawyer for any type of criminal case, including sexual assault cases in Ontario.
Covid 19’s Impact On Stream A Ignition Interlock Cases
I am going to be talking to you today about how the COVID-19 has effected Stream A Ignition Interlock cases in Ontario. That is, for impaired driving cases. First of all, let me tell you what STREAM A means, you may already know but I will briefly discuss it. So when a person is charged with impaired by alcohol or blowing over the legal limit, of eighty milligrams of alcohol on one hundred milliliters of blood or refusing to provide a breath sample in Ontario. They have the right to plead guilty at a relatively early opportunity and get advantage of being able to drive with the ignition interlock on their car. That’s a device you blow into each time, you start the car. It might go off in regular intervals, so can get back driving. And the way the program works is this. You would calculate ninety days from the date of your arrest. You have to plead guilty within those ninety days to qualify for Stream A, so it’s a very clear limitation period. And by the way, practically, the limitation is eighty-nine period, days. So you really want to mark down eighty-nine days. Even though the Ministry’s website says ninety, we have found that practically it’s eighty-nine. So what happens this summer, as you to a certain extent the court system was paused, trials weren’t going on, only urgent guilty pleas were being considered. The definition of urgent I won’t ‘get into it, but an impaired driving cases were considered urgent because of this limitation period. Because the MTO or the courts, if someone wanted to take advantage of the interlock, they encourage that. So we were able to do virtual guilty pleas by zoom, by audio teleconference, and get a person back driving. That is a person who didn’t get a great deal. By the way, there’s a lot of great deals being offered this summer so, I want to mentioned that to you as well. Charges are being withdrawn, this summer because of the COVID pandemic, and careless driving. But for those who wanted STREAM A, we wanted to be able to do that. So about half way through the pause this summer, I think it was on May fourteenth actually, the Ministry of Transport said “look, this is unfair that the limitation period, so we are going to suspended it, we are going to put it to two hundred and eighty three days”, and the reason for that is a lot of self-represented accused, you could not just plead guilty , a lot of courts were not letting a self-represented accused do things virtually. So they are going “God, I can’t get my Stream A,” but what has been the effect of this? Now, that the court system’s been re-opened on July sixth, in a limited way, by the way, a limited number of courtrooms have been opened for trials. They are still doing virtual guilty pleas, so STREAM A is no longer considered to be urgent. But most of our clients who want to take advantage of STREAM A still want to get back to driving as quickly as possible, the quicker you plead guilty, the quicker you get back driving. So what happens is if you plead guilty today, you can get back driving with that interlock, ninety days from today. So it’s very important to take advantage of this. If you don’t hire a lawyer, you are not going to be able qualify, and by the way, you might be offered a great deal as well. Those are happening right now because of the perception of delay. The courts have been paused. There’s only a limited number of court rooms. And of course for those who want a trial, we can always proceed with trial. I can tell you this, I was amazed at the number of cases we had this summer, that were scheduled for trial, where the Crowns actually offered a careless driving or withdrawal the charges. And normally we don’t get those type of deals unless we get a completely, obviously, winning case. On a fifty-fifty case, the crown normally doesn’t offer those deals, they are now, there are even offering them on less than fifty-fifty cases. So, you should hire a lawyer right now don’t delay.
Covid 19’s Impact On Trial Delay In The Ontario Criminal Courts
I want to talk to you today about how the COVID-19 pandemic is effecting trial delay in our Ontario criminal court system. What happened in the summer of course from March right until July sixth is that the courts were largely put on pause, there was no trials going on, every trial was being put over. Now however on July sixth, many of our courthouses have renovated a limited number of courtrooms for trial. For example, let me give you two examples, in Kitchener, two out of many trial courtrooms, only two have been renovated, in Windsor, same. So on a given day in those jurisdictions, there’s a whole bunch of trial courtrooms running, now we only have two. So what’s going to happen to all these cases that were put on pause. Under our Canadian Rights and Charter and Freedoms, under section 11 b, has a right to be tried within reasonable time and the Supreme Court of Canada has put timelines on that. In a case called Jordan, R, Regina against Jordan. Those timelines are as follows, for a case in the lower court, in the Ontario Court of Justice, from the date of the arrest, until your trial, that has to completed in eighteen months. For a case that goes to the Superior Court of Justice, those timelines are thirty months. Now what happens is if those timelines are not met, it would be your right to bring in an application to stay the proceedings which is effectively a withdrawal. So if you are not the one who caused those delay, it was due to institutional resources, actions of the Crown, etc., if those times lines aren’t met, your case could easily be thrown out. Is that going to happen? With all the cases that went on this summer that have been put over or all the people in custody, cases are put over, all the new charges, is that going to happen? It does remain to be seen, we don’t’ really know, there is a perception that there could, because of that perception the Crown Attorneys are offering a lot of pretty good deals these days to hopefully remove the cascading bottle neck. But now we’ve got a problem. Limited number of courtrooms opened, so defence counsel, if cases get extended beyond the eighteen months, are going to be making these arguments, or thirty months in Superior Court of Justice, Crown Attorneys are going to argue quite properly in this sense that well, “COVID, during the summer while it was on pause, that was exceptional circumstances, that should not go towards the period” And I can see that, that should not , and now that the courts are re-opening , the bottle necks there is cascading, and defence counsel can argue, “well now, give me my trial date now, I’m ready to set a trial” , and it’s going to be very interesting decisions that come forward whether delay meets the Jordan guidelines or not, again, the Crowns are going to have to argue exceptional circumstances, defence counsel is going to have to distinguish it, but what happens when all the courts get renovated, now we are completely in a position that this is not an exceptional circumstances right now. So it’s going to be an interesting argument, I don’t want to make a prediction. I do predict that there could be cases strong even for delay. I do predict that the Crown Attorneys are going to keep offering deals to avoid that, and the problem may be removed because of that. But what’s the good news for people? Well you are going to get reasonable deals going forward, the Crown doesn’t want a murder case to get thrown out, they don’t want serious charges thrown out. On more minor charges, maybe a lot deals offered. So the Crowns are going to have to come grips with this, there are going to have to ask themselves on every case, even a murder case or a sexual assault case, apply the proper test, “Is there a reasonable prospect of conviction?” That’s a very low test. If the answer is “no”, in my respectful view, and that’s the proper test, the Crown should pull that charge, because you don’t want it effecting the legitimate charge, where there is a reasonable prospect of conviction. So the message I want to deliver to you is this, for those who retain, for example, our office this summer, who want a trial date, they weren’t able to do that but we were able to move your file through the normal steps, we were able to meet with the Crown, get a judicial pretrial, get your case set for trial, now we are in a position to do that. You are a head of the game for someone who sat on their hands. The person who sat on their hands, it’s going to take them weeks to be able to set a trial date, they did nothing, that delay is arguably on them. For the clients who took those steps, if delay emerges they are going to be able to take advantage of that and perhaps also get a reasonable resolution. And when I say a reasonable resolution, don’t get me wrong, the Crown is not giving away the farm in the province, they are still offering reasonable deals, to avoid the cascading problems, delay, and to hopefully avoid getting serious criminal charges thrown out. No one wants that, as a criminal defence lawyer, I don’t want that as well. I am a member of the public as well, crime should be prosecuted but on the other hand, I have a duty to my individual client to press all issues, including if delay emerges.
So that’s basically what’s going on in the province, we don’t truly know yet, how bad the back log problem is. I can tell you this though, we are all worried about it, as a member of the public I am, there’s a great perception that there is a backlog and it’s probably going to emerge, the only way it’s not going to emerge is that the Crown could officially move through the system, and we can get back to renovating all of our court houses. I don’t know when all of the courtrooms are going to be renovated, to make them COVID friendly, they are talking about November, who knows. And by the way, jury trials have been suspended to September. God knows when they are coming back, I would be shocked if they resume on September twentieth. I don’t think they will but that remains to be seen. So you got people charged with very serious crimes, like murder and sexual assault, who are anxiously waiting in custody waiting for their jury trial. So there are problems going on in the court house, right now, across the province. I can tell you this, I think the Crown Attorneys effectively dealing with this. Taking the proper steps to avoid the delay and they should be commended for that and I encourage from them to continue to do so.
Covid 19: The Modernization of Ontario Criminal Courts
I want to talk to you today about how our Ontario criminal court system both at the Ontario Court of Justice level and the Superior Court of Justice level has been adapting to new technology and modernizing our court system.
First of all, this is long overdue. We were living in our court system in the 19th and 20th century and what Covid-19 the pandemic has caused us is to say look we really need to get some virtual hearings, some virtual guilty pleas all of this technology that we’ve never had we need to bring in and the courts are doing this. I mean there is now an opportunity to do electronic filing, electronic disclosure, designations electronically, and you know the court right now wants to have as few people in court buildings as possible. So first of all from March until now we’ve been doing virtual guilty pleas, we’ve been doing virtual bail hearings. This is what the technology we have. So they’ve spent millions of dollars on this and it’s a great thing. Our system really needed to be modernized. We are even offering virtual trials right now which is interesting. July 6th trials resumed in person on that date in a limited way. In each courthouse they renovated you know, 1 or 2 of the trials courts and by the way there’s many trial courts in most courthouses so it’s very limited but we really need to keep taking advantage of this. I’m very open to this. Many criminal lawyers are. I mean some of the old aren’t. They would like to return the new ways but the reality is we were stuck in the 19th and 20th century and it needed to change. This is one of the positive outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic and you know, one of the many reasons for doing this aside from it needed to be done is we need to avoid a delay in the court system and now you have an opportunity to still move your files. So I’m hoping the courts continue with this. They’re very committed to it. I’ve been going to town hall meetings with the Ministry of Attorney General and Judges, etc. We’ve been discussing this and most players are very open to this. I’m very happy that the government has chosen this route and I hope we continue in the future.
How Kruse Law Firm Has Adapted to the Covid 19 Pandemic
I want to talk to you today about how Kruse Law Firm has successfully adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic. One thing you should realize and you’re probably aware of this, criminal lawyers are considered essential service in the province so we’ve been operating fully during the Covid pandemic even though the court system was paused to a certain extent from March until July 6th. On July 6th the courts have opened in a limited way in terms of the number of courtrooms operating criminal trials across the province.
So what we’ve been doing is we’ve been servicing our existing clients, taking on new clients across the province and we have 4 physical locations. Offices and lawyers in 4 different cities. In Toronto, Kitchener, London and Windsor so those offices have been fully functional. Our staff’s been there we’ve been keeping everyone safe within our buildings.
The court protocol across the province right now is a lot of things are operating virtually. Guilty pleas are going virtual, bail hearings. They are trying to keep the court system safe so we’ve been doing that day in and day out. On July 6th of course trials resumed for example, in a limited number of courthouses. For example in London and in Kitchener and in Windsor. A few courtrooms have been renovated. Not many by the way so there’s still going to be some delay so we’ve been doing this for years. We’ve been operating virtually in other counties as well. We service all the counties in between those locations, north and south and central and western Ontario and this is the new virtual reality. Clients are choosing to meet with us on zoom or phone. We’re encouraging that and things have gone very well so we’ve been very pleased with that. We haven’t been meeting to date at least with people in person. Most clients don’t want that and it’s worked out very well. Virtual, you know the technology we have now you can operate anywhere in Ontario as a lawyer. So you don’t necessarily have to hire a local criminal lawyer. The virtual reality is probably here to stay for some time. We may continue with virtual guilty pleas for some time. Even trials are being offered virtually right now. So do you really need to hire a local lawyer say if you live in Owen Sound or any city, Windsor, Kitchener, London or Toronto. My message is to you with the new reality we’re in is that you need to hire and find the best possible criminal lawyer you can find within your budget. That may be a local lawyer. It may not be.
So that’s what we’ve been doing. I also want to mention that we’re keeping our staff and lawyers very safe. Let’s just take some of our offices. We have each staff member and lawyer has their own separate office within our buildings so they can socially distance. We’re practicing cleanliness standards every day. So this is all working out well. I want our staff to be safe. I want our clients to be safe. Clients haven’t even needed to come into the building because we have we can do everything electronically. We can share files with them and that’s working out really well.
Going forward there’s the odd, with the province slowly re-opening right now there’s the odd client who is now asking look can I meet in person and I’ve made the decision yes we will do that but we want to be very safe about it. If that happens we are going to meet in a boardroom. We are going to do safe social distancing with masks and keep everyone safe. If the client wants to review their police reports and disclosure we will set them up in a separate room and they can do that so that, you know, there’s no effect from the pandemic then. So that’s going on. We’ve been successfully adapting to the situation. I believe we will continue to do so and with the courts in the province right now virtuals can continue. It’s not going away. In person trials have resumed but you also have an opportunity to do virtual trials if you want. That’s an opportunity within the province and I’ll be talking about that in one of my other videos because that’s a very interesting topic as well.
The Ontario Criminal Court System During The Covid-19 Pandemic
I’m going to be talking to you today about how they’ve re-opened the criminal court system in the province. So what happened is on July 6th in terms of the Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice, for the Ontario Court of Justice they renovated 93 different courtrooms and that’s a small subset of the number of all the courtrooms in all the various counties and they didn’t renovate every county so not every county is operating. So what’s happening right now is they’ve resumed trials. Trials were paused completely for the summer, actually since March so no trials were going on. So now for example if you take London and Kitchener and Windsor they’ve got 2 trial courtrooms going in each of those Ontario Court of Justice courthouses. Which again is a small subset so there’s going to be potential delay.
Now how would they re-open those courtrooms and are we safe? It really appears that they are doing everything they can, the government. There’s no question they’ve done a yeoman’s work to get these reopen. Renovations, they are putting in physical barriers like plexiglas. They are having enhanced cleaning of the courthouses. They have cleaning stations and physical distancing within each courtroom and of course members of the public, everyone has to wear a mask. So the only time you’re not wearing a mask would be for example the lawyers, and you’re behind barriers. So it’s very safe in my view. They have been doing it carefully. They are going to continue to roll out the renovations in the Ontario Court of Justice slowly and hopefully completely open up our court systems safely. So these are in person trials that going on. We still have a limited number of people in the courthouse thankfully and we’re obviously trying to avoid a breakout in the Covid pandemic in every courthouse.
Similarly with the Superior Court of Justice, our higher court where more serious criminal trials only take place there. I shouldn’t say only because serious trials take place in the Ontario Court of Justice but the Superior Court of Justice deals with for example, first degree murder trials, serious rape cases and that sort of thing. So 53 courtrooms have been renovated in various Superior Courts of Justice counties across the province. Again a limited number of courtrooms, a limited number of trials can go on and the Superior Court also services family and civil matters so it’s not a lot of courtrooms going on in that particular court.
So that’s what the Ministry of the Attorney General and the government’s done. I think they are doing a very good job. They really are to be commended and most of my colleagues in the criminal bar in the various counties we operate in have been pretty pleased with the way things are going. Of course, you know some people don’t want to go to court. They might be susceptible for health reasons so they can’t take any risk but for the average person it seems they feel relatively safe and our experience to date with us resuming trials has been pretty positive in terms of the way I feel about being safe and other lawyers at our firm. So really hats off to the government. They really have done a good job and hopefully they can keep it up as we continue to roll out both the economy and our courts in a safe way.