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Nova Scotia provincial, youth courts adjourning in-custody matters

Wednesday, April 01, 2020 @ 1:56 PM | By Terry Davidson

Nova Scotia’s provincial court and youth justice court have put a hold on in-custody criminal trials and preliminary inquiries in a greater push to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Chief Judge Pamela Williams has ordered that, as of March 30, all in-custody trials and preliminary hearings scheduled up until May 31 for those courts are adjourned and will be rescheduled later, towards the start of summer.

“Court staff will contact counsel to advise them of the adjournment,” states a press release. “In-custody trials and preliminary inquiries will be considered a priority as matters are rescheduled in June or later.”

Up until this point, the provincial court was only adjourning matters involving accused not in custody. The rescheduling of those matters can be found in the news release.

The courts will continue to hear “urgent and essential matters,” such as bail hearings, which will be heard via phone or video, and some sentencing and youth sentencing reviews.  

In these cases, the courts “will make full use of video and audio technology.” Peace bond applications and hearings will be heard by phone.

But Nova Scotia Judiciary communications director Jennifer Stairs said that when it comes to trials and preliminary inquiries involving those in custody, it was deemed the use of this technology would not work due to the complex nature of these types of hearings.

This assessment was made after Chief Judge Williams consulted chief judges in other jurisdictions and various justice system organizations about their experiences using these methods, said Stairs.    

The release goes on to state that “the Justice of the Peace Centre will deal with all new matters involving individuals in police custody by telephone. … Individuals will either be released on conditions or remanded to a correctional facility with the next appearance by video in Provincial Court.”

Duty counsel will assist during daytime hours.