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Nova Scotia opens COVID-19 compliant courthouse

Tuesday, April 06, 2021 @ 1:11 PM | By Terry Davidson

A high-tech, COVID-19 compliant “criminal jury courthouse” has opened its doors in Atlantic Canada.

The courthouse, in Dartmouth, N.S., opened March 31 and has been specially designed for the physical distancing of those inside.

According to a news release, it is the first of its kind to be opened in Atlantic Canada. It features two courtrooms with partitioned jury boxes, as well as adequate space for lawyers, defendants, witnesses and staff.

“The courthouse also accommodates onsite jury selection and juror deliberations, and is equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual systems, including digital recording and evidence presentation systems,” it goes on to state, noting that the four criminal jury courtrooms in the Halifax Law Courts are not large enough to accommodate jury trials and, at the same time, allow those inside to comply with public health measures.

“We have been able to adapt and transform many of our court operations in response to COVID-19,” said Nova Scotia Attorney General and Minister of Justice Randy Delorey. “Addressing delays of court matters and providing for the ongoing safety of those who use our courts continues to be a top priority. With the addition of these two satellite courtrooms, we are now able to safely resume criminal jury trials in the Halifax area.”

The release goes on to state that court staff “will be onsite at this satellite location when jury selections and trials are underway.”

As of March 30, there were 44 jury trials pending in the Halifax region, including scheduled trials that had to be adjourned during the early months of the pandemic.

In a statement, Supreme Court of Nova Scotia Chief Justice Deborah Smith talked of the difficult decision made in March 2020 to suspend jury trials due to the emerging health crisis.

“We are fortunate in Nova Scotia to have a positive working relationship between the judiciary and the province, which has helped us work through the many challenges presented by the pandemic,” said Chief Justice Smith. “Suspending jury trials last March was not an easy decision. Knowing that we now have an appropriate space that can safely accommodate these matters should be welcome news for all Nova Scotians.”

The cost of renovations for COVID-19 compliant satellite courts in Nova Scotia is being forecast to be more than $4.2 million.

As of April 5, there were three new confirmed cases and 32 active cases of COVID-19 in that province, which has seen cumulative confirmed case count of 1,742.

There have been 66 deaths, according to the government’s website.

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