Provincial court extends trail, preliminary inquiry and in-person hearing suspension

(Herald file photo)

The Provincial Court of Saskatchewan has extended the suspension of most trials, preliminary inquires and in-person hearings until Feb. 16.

The suspension was set to expire on Jan. 15, but Chief Judge J.A. Plemel released a statement on Friday saying the risk of spreading COVID-19 is still too high.

Parties may ask for a Trial Management Conference if they want proceedings to continue.

“In order for the matter to proceed, the Court must be satisfied the trail can safely be held within the CMHO (Chief Medical Health Officer) guidelines,” Plemel wrote.

Judges are allowed to reschedule Trial Management Conferences if the parties are not ready or fail to attend.

Parties may apply for a matter to proceed at any time.

Circuit point dockets will continue via phone from permanent court locations, but Court parties will not travel to outside communities.

The Court still encourages lawyers and accused persons to appear by phone when possible.

“The Provincial Court is committed to maintaining access to its critical services, while ensuring the safety of all those who work in court facilities and the public who attend,” Plemel wrote.

The CMHO has advised against unnecessary travel outside of home communities.

It has also increased the recommended distance for physical distancing where physical barriers are not present in a courtroom.

Most trials, preliminary inquiries and in-person hearings were suspended on Dec. 14.

At the time, Plemel said the rising number of COVID cases and new provincial guidelines for gathering sizes and physical distancing were the reason.