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PROCEDURE - Trials

Wednesday, August 05, 2020 @ 9:24 AM  


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Application by the Crown to have the matter tried over the Zoom platform. The application arose in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The accused was charged with sexual assault. Early on, both the Crown and defence requested that the matter proceed by way of a virtual trial, such that the accused be permitted to be absent from the courtroom, subject to terms and conditions that included that he observe and participate by remote videoconferencing software. The accused signed a Waiver and Consent to a virtual trial and was represented by counsel throughout. Both parties submitted that s. 650(2)(b) of the Criminal Code vested the trial judge with the power to allow the accused to be absent from his trial.

HELD: Application allowed. Section 650 of the Criminal Code stipulated that an accused was to be present in court during the whole of his or her trial. However, the court could permit the accused to be out of court during the whole or any part of his trial on such conditions as the court considered proper. The charge was to be tried by judge alone. There were few witnesses, few documents and few issues. Rescheduling would be onerous to everyone. All parties were sufficiently experienced to make the Zoom process work effectively. The practice sessions showed that Zoom would be entirely suitable for a fair and public hearing. Protocols were in place to ensure that the community could watch the proceedings.

Court File No. 19/578 (Re), [2020] O.J. No. 2824, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, G.D. Lemon J., June 22, 2020. Digest No. TLD-August32020004