Province suspends most trials, preliminary inquiries and hearings due to pandemic

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Saskatchewan’s provincial courts have suspended most trials, preliminary inquiries, and in-person hearings until Feb. 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month the courts suspended most operations until Jan. 16. In a statement to media today, Saskatchewan Chief Judge J.A. Plemel, said the move was prompted by guidance from the Chief Medical Health Officer (CMHO).

“The CMHO has advised against unnecessary travel outside of home communities and reduced the maximum gathering limits,” said Chief Judge Plemel. “It has also increased the recommendation for distancing, where physical barriers are not present in courtrooms, to three metres.”

Where the court has contact information, it will contact parties in advance of the trial date. At that time any party to a proceeding may apply to have a matter proceed and a judge will decide whether or not it will. In order for the matter to proceed, the court must be satisfied the trial can safely be held within the CMHO guidelines.

Judges may conduct Trial Management Conferences to decide if a matter can safely be held. If parties are not ready, or if they fail to attend the Trial Management Conference, the presiding judge may cancel the date set and schedule another time when the matter is to be dealt with.

The court continues to encourage lawyers and accused persons to appear by phone. Arrangements can be made via the local court office. Circuit point dockets will proceed but will be conducted by phone from the permanent court location. In most instances court parties will not travel to the communities.

“The Provincial Court is committed to maintaining access to its critical services, while ensuring the safety of all those who work in court facilities and the public who attend,” said Chief Judge Plemel.

In November the court had postponed jury trials that were scheduled to begin before the end of the year. In December this was extended until March 31, 2021. There were 19 jury trials scheduled between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2021.

Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist