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Many Saskatchewan court cases adjourned for more than 10 weeks due to COVID-19

People showing up in North Battleford Provincial Court March 19 were told by security staff they weren’t required to attend today and to return in about 10 weeks. 

In response to COVID-19, Saskatchewan Courts have reduced court operations. 

“As long as you return on June 4, 2020, the adjourned date, you will not be arrested (unless you incur new charges),” security staff were telling defendants coming to the court house. 

Anyone with court-related questions can call 306-446-7400. If anyone has a criminal matter scheduled on another date they are asked to call the Crown’s office at 306-446-7788 or Legal Aid at 306-446-7700 to make arrangements to adjourn their court case. People can also call the court house at 306-446-7400, 306-446-7581 or 306-446-7405. 

Security staff also told people that if they were experiencing any COVID-19 related symptoms, or were advised to self-isolate, then they shouldn’t come to the court house.  Anyone falling into that category and has a court appearance, or a subpoena, should call 306-446-7788.

On March 17, Saskatchewan’s Chief Judge J.A. Plemel issued a statement on the Saskatchewan Law Courts website saying in order to protect the health and safety of all court users and to contain the spread of COVID-19, the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan was reducing court operations but would ensure access to the court for urgent matters. 

Cleaning protocols are increased inside courtrooms, common areas and secure ares of the facilities. 

Anyone entering the court houses are asked practice hand washing and social distancing by keeping one to two metres of space between themself and others. 

Starting on March 23, access to Provincial Court houses across the province will be restricted to only those who are necessary to a proceeding, such as counsel, litigants, accused, witnesses, support workers, treatment court workers and members of the media. 

Starting March 16, all circuit courts at the northern circuit fly-in locations were closed and the remaining circuit courts will close on March 23. Court proceedings are adjourned to dates past May 31. 

Some trials and preliminary hearings for in-custody accused may continue in some circuit courts if it’s possible and it’s determined by the presiding judge to be urgent. All other trials and preliminary hearings are adjourned to court dates after May 31. 

Those in-custody, who are scheduled to appear in circuit courts, should appear at the local permanent court by video, telephone, agent or in-person depending on the circumstances. 

Notices will be posted on the doors at circuit court locations giving more information. 

All 13 permanent provincial court locations will stay open. In-custody criminal trials, preliminary hearings, sentencing and bail hearings will proceed unless they are adjourned by the court. 

The courts will utilize video and audio appearances to deal with criminal matters for those who are in-custody. 

Bail or sentencing hearings will be done by video/audio conference instead of in-person if possible. 

Starting March 23, trials and preliminary hearings those who are charged but aren’t in custody, are adjourned until after May 31. 

Police will make all new first appearances returnable after May 31, 2020. Any urgent Child Protection matters will proceed at the provincial court permanent locations. 

All tickets and trials that require someone to appear in court between March 23 and May 31 have to be adjourned. Call (306) 787-7821 or toll-free at 1-888-935-5555 for more information.

All small claims trials and case management conferences scheduled between March 23 and May 31 are adjourned. Small claims documents can be filed with the court by mail or by putting them in a drop box at the lobby of the court house. 

All stand-alone bylaw courts are closed starting March 23 until May 31. People should contact the local municipal office to reschedule. 

On March 15 Saskatchewan Courts cancelled all class and group visits to court houses. 

Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist

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