Covid 19 Protocol For Criminal Cases In the Ontario Court
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.