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Nova Scotia court to hear resolved non-urgent criminal matters

Wednesday, April 15, 2020 @ 3:34 PM | By Terry Davidson

After coming to a near-total shutdown in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19, Nova Scotia’s provincial court will now attempt to clear its docket of non-urgent criminal matters where counsel on both sides agree on a resolution.  

According to an April 9 news release, this new process “will help clear matters off the docket where the prosecutor and defence counsel have come to an agreement or substantial agreement on the resolution of the file.”

Currently, only urgent and essential matters — in-custody bail hearings, some sentencings and youth sentence reviews, for example — are being heard by the court, mostly via telephone and video. (In the name of social distancing, the general public has been barred from these matters, but members of the news media have been able to attend remotely.)

In the case of these non-urgent resolutions, the Crown and defence will have to complete a “Request for Resolution of Non-Urgent Matters” form and e-mail it to the provincial court supervisor at the applicable courthouse.

The lawyers will appear via telephone before a judge for resolutions by way of a restorative justice referral; a peace bond and dismissal of charges; a withdrawal or dismissal of the charges; a guilty plea with a request for a presentence report, a Gladue report or an Impact of Race and Culture Assessment; or a guilty plea with a joint recommendation for a non-custodial sentence.

The news release notes that counsel must indicate on the form the time required for the resolution and complete any “disposition checklist forms” (disposition forms, release order conditions, conditional sentence orders, probation or fine orders.)

The provincial court supervisor will confirm with lawyers the date and time of the resolution, as well as a teleconference phone number and identification number, all of which counsel will have to distribute to other attendees.

The court clerk will run the conference call into the courtroom and have all hearings recorded.

The release also notes the new process is subject “to the availability of a judge and court staff.”