Saskatchewan courts postpone jury trials after rise in COVID-19 cases

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The worsening COVID-19 pandemic in the province has prompted Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench to postpone all jury trials scheduled to start between now and the end of December.

Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Popescul acknowledged that courts are an essential service and it’s important the public continues to have access to the critical and necessary services the court provides. Jury trials, however, require the participation of many members of the public from a broad geographic area - particularly during the selection process – and require more people to be physically present in the courtroom each day for the duration of the trial. This, combined with other factors, prompted the court to postpone jury trials.

“The Court recognizes the public health risks posed by COVID-19 and is committed to taking the steps necessary to safeguard the health of everyone in our courtrooms and court facilities,” said Chief Justice Popescul in a statement to the media Nov. 19.

Popescul said the Court would continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in the province and adapt its operations to the changing circumstances as needed.

After first being postponed in the spring with the outbreak of the pandemic, jury trials resumed in September at off-site locations and with strict adherence to physical distancing and other public health protocols. Four jury trials have proceeded in that time.

There were an additional four jury trials scheduled for the remainder of 2020. Those will now be spoken to on the date originally set for the trial to begin. Accused individuals can re-elect trial by judge alone (in which case the trial would proceed in the scheduled time frame), or have the matter adjourned to a date in the New Year. These adjournments will receive rescheduling priority from the court.

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