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Saskatchewan court suspends jury trials for rest of 2020

Monday, November 23, 2020 @ 2:16 PM | By Terry Davidson

In the face of rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, the province’s Court of Queen’s Bench is shelving all jury trials for the remainder of this year.

As of Nov. 20, the court postponed all jury trials scheduled to start between then and Dec. 31, according to a notice from the court.

However, an option is being provided.

For criminal cases, those impacted by the suspension have the option of choosing to have their matter heard by judge alone.

Chief Justice Martel Popescul

“If the accused wishes to proceed on that basis, the trial may proceed during the scheduled time period (if there is no other bar to the matter so proceeding),” states Chief Justice Martel Popescul. “If there is no re-election, the trial will be adjourned to a date after December 31, 2020. The Court will grant rescheduling priority to those cases that are adjourned.”

Saskatchewan’s government reported 236 new cases for Nov. 22, bringing the total number in that province to 6,473. As of then, there were 99 people in hospital — reportedly a record number.

When the pandemic first hit, Justice Popescul cancelled all jury trials between March 16 and May 30. As the number of confirmed cases increased, that suspension was extended to June 30.

(The court does not traditionally hold jury trials in July and August.)

Some jury trials resumed in September, with four being held at off-site locations. Each proceeded “with strict adherence to physical distancing and other public health protocols,” according to a separate news release.

Four jury trials have been impacted by this latest suspension.

“As an essential service, it’s important that the public continues to have access to the critical and necessary services the Court provides,” stated Justice Popescul. “However, the Court recognizes the public health risks posed by COVID-19 and is committed to taking the steps necessary to safeguard the health of everyone in our courtrooms and court facilities.”

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