Home » COVID-19: Notice to Counsel and the Public re: Criminal Matters in the Ontario Court of Justice– Interim notice while the Court transitions from the COVID-19 pandemic (Published April 4, 2022)

COVID-19: Notice to Counsel and the Public re: Criminal Matters in the Ontario Court of Justice– Interim notice while the Court transitions from the COVID-19 pandemic (Published April 4, 2022)

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1. INTRODUCTION

The Ontario Court of Justice significantly revised its operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This Notice sets out those portions of the “COVID-19: Notice to Counsel and the Public re: Criminal Matters in the Ontario Court of Justice” (published in May 2020 and last updated June 2020) that remain in effect, on an interim basis, as the court transitions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other notices and directives issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic also remain in effect.  To see what policies and directives regarding criminal court proceedings are currently in effect, please see the “Notices and Info about Criminal Proceedings” page on the OCJ website.  Previous versions of notices and directives are available on the Archives page of the Ontario Court of Justice website.

2. APPLICATION

This Notice applies to all criminal matters, including matters under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, before the Ontario Court of Justice.

For purposes of this Notice, the term “defence counsel” includes duty counsel and agents authorized under s. 800(2) of the Criminal Code.

3. PROCESS FOR OBTAINING A JUDGE’S ORDER TO BRING AN PERSON IN CUSTODY BEFORE THE COURT BY VIDEO OR AUDIO

This process applies to remote appearances (video or audio) only

Where an in-custody accused person’s matter is being brought forward to be addressed in court for purposes of a guilty plea, bail hearing, or other type of appearance, counsel should notify the Trial Coordinator to request to have the matter brought forward to a new date.  The email subject line should indicate “Judge’s Order Request” and include the accused person’s name and date of the court appearance. The body of the email should include the accused person’s name and date of birth (where known), the correctional facility where they are detained, the date and time and courtroom where they are requested to appear and the nature of the appearance (audioconference or videoconference).

The request will be reviewed by a judge.  If the judge approves the request, an email confirming that a judge has ordered the accused person’s appearance will be sent to the correctional facility, the court clerk, defence counsel and the Crown at least 24 hours in advance of the new date.

Where this procedure is followed, a formal application for a judge’s order under s. 527 of the Criminal Code is not required.

4. SERVING AND FILING COURT DOCUMENTS

4.1 Serving by Email

Court documents can be served by email pursuant to rule 3.3(1) of the Criminal Rules of the Ontario Court of Justice.

4.2 Filing by Email

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to avoid the need for personal attendance at courthouses, the following procedure for electronic filing has been established under Rules 5 and 3(2) of the Criminal Rules of the Ontario Court of Justice.

Documents in criminal proceedings may be filed electronically (by email), in accordance with the Notice to the Legal Profession and the Public regarding the process of emailing documents at the Ontario Court of Justice, or otherwise in accordance with the direction of a judge or justice of the peace.

When a document has been filed electronically, it is not necessary to file a paper copy.

When a document has been served by email and is being filed by email, a formal affidavit of service is not required to be filed.  However, the person filing the document should retain a copy of any relevant affidavit(s) of service and/or related documents (e.g., email confirmations) and should be prepared to produce it to the Court on request.

Counsel are required to file documents electronically rather than in paper unless a judge or justice of the peace orders otherwise.

Self-represented accused persons are strongly encouraged to file documents electronically whenever possible. Access to courthouses is strictly limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  If you are unable to file materials for a criminal matter by email, please contact your local courthouse by email or telephone, or by attending at your local courthouse.  See the Contacts and Courthouse Information page on the OCJ website; the addresses and phone numbers of all Ontario Court of Justice courthouses are posted on the Ministry of the Attorney General website.

4.3 Electronic Signatures

The Ontario Court of Justice will accept electronically signed documents where a signature is required.  See Rule 3.4 of the Criminal Rules of the Ontario Court of Justice

4.4 Commissioning Affidavits

Counsel are encouraged to refer to the guidelines of the Law Society of Ontario with respect to virtual commissioning during the COVID-19 pandemic: Frequently Asked Practice Management Questions about COVID-19.

Where it is not possible for counsel to commission an affidavit in person or by virtual means, unsworn / unaffirmed affidavits may be filed with the Court, but the affiant is expected to be available to attend the hearing by audioconference or videoconference to swear or affirm the contents of the affidavit.