Focus On

Nova Scotia court gives go-ahead to Information to Obtain unsealing applications

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 @ 3:56 PM | By Terry Davidson

In the name of social distancing, Nova Scotia’s provincial court is allowing prosecutors to electronically file ex parte applications to unseal Information to Obtain (ITO) search warrants as well as “other forms of judicial authorizations.”

“These applications are necessary for the Crown to fulfill its disclosure obligations to defence counsel,” states an April 27 notice. “Prosecution services seeking to unseal an ITO are asked to prepare the unsealing application documents, including an application, supporting affidavit and unsealing order for submission to the Court. The documents are to be filed electronically with the Provincial Court where the original ITO is filed.”

Included in the notice is a link to e-mail addresses for the province’s provincial courts.

Nova Scotia Judiciary communications director Jennifer Stairs said that in most instances, Crown prosecutors make these applications, but police can as well.

“Investigators are the ones who apply to a justice of the peace or a judge for the warrant and where appropriate, request that it be sealed. So, in theory, a police officer could also make the application to unseal the warrant in order to provide disclosure to defence counsel.”

Of the new remote filing, the notice states that the “process is intended to balance this legal requirement with public health advice regarding social distancing and the safe handling of paper documents.”

It also notes that PDF documents “in support of the application” include the application, the affidavit of either the Crown or the police and the draft order.

Instructions can be found in the notice, which goes on to stress that because of the ongoing pandemic, the province’s judicial system is running with reduced staff and that, as a result, “it will likely take longer than usual for the copy of the ITO to be made after the Order is signed.”