Omicron surge leads Alberta courts to postpone some cases

Article content

Faced with an expected post-holiday surge in COVID-19 infections, Alberta courts are postponing some in-person cases when proceedings resume Tuesday.

Article content

Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench and provincial court announced plans over the New Year’s weekend to limit attendance at courthouses by adjourning a variety of criminal, civil and family matters.

A Queen’s Bench notice said the measures are in response to the rise of the hyper-transmissible Omicron variant and the “ongoing risk” to justice system participants. The measures will apply for the next three weeks.

The move comes days after Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange  extended winter break until Jan. 10 in response to Omicron. On Saturday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Albertans should expect to come into contact with someone who is infectious with the variant whenever they leave their homes .

Article content

Alberta courts have been operating with COVID restrictions since March 2020. Most courtrooms have limited seating capacity and rules for physical distancing, while many have been equipped for video conferencing.  Large, specially equipped courtrooms and off-site locations are being used for jury trials and selections.

For the most part, Alberta courts have been more cautious than governments when it comes to COVID restrictions, in some cases maintaining mask mandates when municipalities allowed them to expire .

On the provincial court side, all “non-urgent” trials and preliminary hearings that involve an accused person who is not in jail will be adjourned past Jan. 21. This also applies to hearings requiring in-person “viva voce” evidence. All civil matters between Jan. 4 and Jan. 21 will be postponed, while traffic court will remain closed for all in-person appearances.

The Court of Queen’s Bench is allowing all trials and in-person matters that have already begun to continue. All other in-person trials — including criminal, civil and family cases — will be adjourned, with the exception of scheduled in-custody criminal matters, scheduled emergency protection order and restraining order hearings, and scheduled cases with “unusual or urgent circumstances.”

Full details are available on the provincial court and Court of Queen’s Bench websites.

View original article here Source