B.C. Provincial Courts starting to reopen remotely amid COVID-19

B.C. Provincial Courts starting to reopen remotely amid COVID-19
File photo.
BC Provincial Courts are slowly reopening to allow the hearing of non-essential service cases amid COVID-19

Provincial courts in British Columbia are testing the waters again after only hearing urgent matters due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, by moving from essential services to a recovery plan that will allow the hearing of other cases.
According to a notice released on Tuesday, the Court has developed a plan to “commence recovery of some court operations that can be done remotely by audioconference (including telephone) or videoconference in a manner that maintains the safety and security of all court participants.”

Chief Judge Melissa Gillespie announced the court is introducing mandatory pre-trial conferences for most adult and youth criminal trials and preliminary inquiries.

Family and small claims trials will also have to go through the pre-trial conference process and will be resumed by telephone or video conference.

According to Gillespie, telephone sentencing hearings will be available for some out-of-custody matters and cases that are not urgent.

Although these are the first steps taken to reopen the Provincial Courts, the public is urged not to attend a courthouse in person.

“Accordingly, in light of the extraordinary circumstances during the current public health emergency, people are strongly discouraged from attending any courthouse, and all proceedings will be held by audioconference or videoconference unless otherwise directed,” said the Court.

The courts closed down in March when provincial health officials said the number of people in courthouses needed to be minimized.
With files from the Canadian Press
Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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