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Jury trials in Ontario on hold until at least September amid COVID-19, court says

Criminal and civil jury trials in Ontario will be on hold for at least an additional three months in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ontario Superior Court temporarily halted in-person operations in mid-March due to rising concerns over the novel coronavirus, with all criminal and civil matters suspended or adjourned until June.

But in a notice issued this week, Chief Justice Geoffrey B. Morawetz says the court will not resume jury selection and jury trials until September at the earliest.

Morawetz says the court will monitor the situation and give further direction next month.

Until then, he says, all criminal matters that had already been rescheduled for June due to COVID-19 restrictions should keep their dates.

The rescheduling of civil jury matters will be left to each region of the court.

Urgent matters may still proceed by phone or video

The court has continued to hear urgent matters during this time, with some hearings carried out via teleconference.

The provincial court, which handles the majority of criminal cases, also dramatically cut back its operations last month in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The Ontario Court of Justice suspended all family and criminal trials as well as preliminary inquiries until June, and has not issued new instructions.

Justice officials continue to oversee bail, remand and plea courts for accused people in custody, as well as plea court for urgent cases involving accused people not in custody.

They are also available to preside over urgent family proceedings and other matters deemed essential. Any matters that do proceed are to be heard by telephone or video conferencing unless ordered otherwise.

Some legal experts have raised concerns that the temporary suspension of most court operations could have significant long-term consequences.

The Supreme Court of Canada made allowances for exceptional circumstances when it imposed strict time limits on court cases, which means any cases that were abruptly stalled likely won’t be compromised, experts have said.

But it’s possible the exemption won’t be applied to later cases held up by snowballing delays.

CBC

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CBC

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