Protocol For Criminal Cases In the Superior Court of Justice: COVID-19
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.