New courtrooms for jury trials in Halifax delayed another month

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Criminal case jury trials can't be held at the Law Courts building in downtown Halifax due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
Criminal case jury trials can't be held at the Law Courts building in downtown Halifax due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

Plans to restart criminal jury trials in the Halifax area have hit another snag.

Construction on two new courtrooms designed to meet COVID-19 restrictions is behind schedule. The two courtrooms, which are being built in the Burnside industrial park in Dartmouth, were supposed to open this week.

But problems with the supply chain have pushed that construction deadline back to the end of this month, according to Nova Scotia court officials.

Health experts have determined that the Law Courts building in downtown Halifax lacks sufficient space in the midst of a pandemic to accommodate the hundreds of people who are summoned for jury duty in a criminal trial.

As the courts gradually reopened for other matters, jury trials in the capital city were put on hold, although there have been criminal jury trials in other parts of the province.

At last count, there were about two-dozen cases that have been waiting for the time and space to conduct a hearing, with more being added on a regular basis. Three cases that were scheduled for this month have had to be moved. One resolved without a trial and the other two are now set to begin at the end of the month.

One of the challenges for the new courts is creating a jury box that allows the 14 panel members to see and hear all the evidence and arguments while still maintaining the two metres of separation required under pandemic restrictions.

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