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Toronto announces remote court services in wake of COVID-19 case at Brampton courthouse

Friday, July 24, 2020 @ 3:51 PM | By John Schofield


In a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19, City of Toronto Courts Services has launched new remote services as Provincial Offences Act courts partially restart operations.

All early resolution meetings with a prosecutor will be conducted via telephone, according to a July 24 news release. Anyone who has received a ticket can request an early resolution meeting online using the online Court Case Lookup or by selecting the early resolution meeting option on their ticket and mailing it to the court address indicated on the back of the ticket. The city will send notices of early resolution meetings by mail or e-mail to the address on file with the court.

People who want to dispute a ticket and request a trial can now submit a Notice of Intention to Appear form by e-mail or by mail, advises the news release. This change applies to tickets issued on or after March 1, 2020.

Those previously convicted without a hearing who wish to apply to have the conviction reopened by the court can also submit their application by e-mail or mail. Anyone who wishes to apply for an extension of time to pay a provincial offence fine may apply by e-mail or by mail.

All Provincial Offences Act forms are available on the city’s website, and completed forms may be e-mailed to POACourt@toronto.ca or mailed to the address on the back of the ticket.

Toronto’s Provincial Offences Act courtrooms, public counters and the Court Services call centre have been closed since March 16 due to the pandemic.

“Streamlined, safe operations like what we are seeing from Court Services are the strong foundation of our recovery and restart,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said in the release.

Meanwhile, Ontario Superior Court Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz is urging judicial officers to respect any health or family-related reasons that individuals may have for not attending court proceedings in person following the July 6 reopening of some courthouses.

“Some may have underlying health conditions, or live with someone who does, or have child care issues arising from the pandemic. Many may not wish to disclose personal health information,” he said in a July 21 notice to the profession.

“The feasibility of a virtual hearing is to be explored, when requested,” he added. “Similarly, I encourage counsel and parties to be accommodating when requests for virtual hearings are made by opposing counsel or parties.”

Requests to have matters heard virtually or in writing should be made to the judge or local trial co-ordinator at the time the hearing is requested and before it is scheduled, he advised.

The notice to the profession was issued days after an individual conducting work at the Brampton courthouse tested positive for COVID-19, the Ministry of the Attorney General confirmed. The individual was not a courthouse employee.

“The path of the individual has been assessed and there is no indication that they visited any of the re-opened courtrooms nor have had any contact with staff or the public,” the Ministry said in a statement.

“As soon as the Ministry was notified, we engaged local public health officials,” the statement added. “Every area of the courthouse where the individual was present received enhanced targeted cleaning overnight on July 16.”

Since the start of the court reopening process July 6, the Ministry said, safety measures have included a required COVID-19 screening test before entering, mandatory masks, physical distancing, Plexiglas barriers and fixed hand-sanitizer stations.

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Daily please contact John Schofield at john.schofield@lexisnexis.ca or call (905) 415-5891.