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Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench postpones jury trials until fall

Days after two offenders in separate drunk driving causing death cases were in Saskatoon court, the sentencing differences are still sinking in.
The Court of Queen’s Bench for Saskatchewan says jury trials scheduled to commence in June 2020 will be postponed to fall 2020. File / Global News

Saskatchewan’s Court of Queen’s Bench says it is still not possible to proceed with jury trials this summer due to the ongoing requirement to practise social distancing.

Changes were introduced last month in response to the spread of COVID-19. These changes included jury trial postponement, mandated health protocols within courthouses and restricted chambers applications to those demonstrated to be urgent or an emergency.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench suspends regular operations to safeguard against COVID-19

All jury trials scheduled to commence in June will be postponed to fall 2020.

“The court is mindful of its obligation to hear and process as many matters as it can, while simultaneously respecting the need to adhere to recommendations and protocols designed to keep everyone safe,” read a statement from the court.

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“While social distancing and other health protocols remain in effect, many users of the legal system have been able to adapt and now have the capability to again engage in court proceedings.”

Although a return to normal is not yet a reality, following consultation with public health authorities and other stakeholders, the court said on Thursday it is apparent that the time has come to loosen some of the restrictions.

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Officials said the restriction on the court hearing appearance day applications and case conferences has lifted and may proceed by telephone starting May 1.

Civil as well as family and child protection pre-trial conferences will resume on June 1. The nature and relative urgency of the action will be assessed by the court.

In an effort to address the backlog of cases, the court will be increasing its summer sittings to as many as 200 pre-trial conferences during July and August.

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Until further notice, pre-trial conferences will be conducted either by telephone or, where appropriate and possible, in person. The manner in which these will be conducted will be at the discretion of the judge assigned.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Saskatchewan businesses prepare as province rolls out plan to reopen

The court’s restrictions respecting hearing only urgent and emergency chambers applications will be lifted starting on June 1.

A “chambers blitz” will be implemented during the weeks of June 8 to 12; June 15 to 19; and June 22 to 26. The court said effort will be made to hear the chambers applications that had been postponed due to the restrictions imposed on March 19 as well as new applications. Chambers applications, unless otherwise ordered by the assigned judge, will be via telephone.

The court said it recognizes that more time is required for hearing matters over the phone, thus potentially limiting the number of matters heard per day, so additional non-traditional chambers dates will be set during this period.

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.