Manitoba reschedules jury trials, court hearings go virtual as Omicron infections rise

Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench is curtailing in-person hearings due to “heightened dangers surrounding the new Omicron variant and specifically, its worrisome transmissibility,” according to a notice issued by the province’s chief justice

The court needs to find a new balance between protection against the virus and providing judicial services, Chief Justice Glenn Joyal said in the notice issued Friday.

As of Monday, Jan. 10, all Court of Queen’s Bench jury trials and all judge-alone out-of-custody trials will have to be rescheduled.

Only in-custody criminal trials will proceed as scheduled, but with added precautions such as limiting the number of people in court and using video conferencing.

Civil and family division cases where all parties are represented by lawyers will he heard by video conference.

Parties who are self-represented must contact the court to reschedule their hearings as they will not be allowed to use video conferencing, Friday’s notice said.

“Manitoba’s models suggest an unsettling picture in the weeks ahead given what is envisioned as a troublingly high infection rate with the accompanying and potential impact on Manitoba’s health care system,” wrote Joyal.

The province announced 742 new COVID-19 cases on Friday — the highest number ever reported in the province. However, officials have said current numbers are likely underreported, due to a backlog in COVID-19 testing.

Manitoba’s provincial court is also instituting changes to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to a notice it issued Thursday.

All bail hearings will be done virtually.

As of Jan. 4, provincial courts in Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie, Brandon, Dauphin, The Pas and Thompson will hear all in-custody and out-of-custody trials, continuations and preliminary hearings in person.

The court remains closed to the general public but the accused and witnesses may have a maximum of two support people in attendance with them.

The Manitoba Court of Appeal says it will conduct all hearings remotely by video conference. 

View original article here Source