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Notices and Info about Criminal Proceedings

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The Ontario Court of Justice has issued a number of practice directions and notices as it has revised its operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: see COVID-19: Notice to Counsel and the Public re: Criminal Matters in the Ontario Court of Justice.  The Court has issued a number of notices and updates since the consolidated notice was last updated on June 1, 2020. An updated consolidated notice will be posted shortly.

The following page summarizes the Court’s current policies and directives regarding criminal court proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trials and Preliminary Inquiries

Resumption of Trials and Preliminary Inquiries

The Ministry of the Attorney General, which is responsible for courts administration and courthouse facilities, has established an incremental plan to prepare courthouses and courtrooms to facilitate the return to court operations across Ontario. The first phase of the plan was implemented Monday July 6, 2020, with criminal trials and preliminary inquiries resuming in a limited number of courthouses and courtrooms; additional courthouses resumed hearing trials and preliminary hearings on August 17 and 24 and September 14 and 28, 2020.  The following courthouses have resumed hearing in-person criminal trials and preliminary inquiries: 

Ontario Court of Justice Courthouses where Criminal Trials and Preliminary Inquiries have Resumed
 Central East Barrie, Bracebridge, Coburg, Lindsay, Newmarket, Oshawa (Durham), Peterborough
 Central West Brampton, Brantford, Burlington, Cayuga, Hamilton, Milton, Orangeville, St Catharines, Simcoe, Welland
 East Belleville (Quinte), Brockville, Cornwall, Kingston, L’Orignal, Ottawa, Pembroke, Napanee, Perth
 Northeast Cochrane, Haileybury, North Bay, Parry Sound, Sault Ste Marie, Sudbury, Timmins
 Northwest Dryden, Fort Frances, Kenora, Thunder Bay
 Toronto 311 Jarvis St, College Park (444 Yonge St), Old City Hall (60 Queen St W), Toronto North (1000 Finch Ave W), Toronto East (1911 Eglinton Ave E), Toronto West (2201 Finch Ave W)
 West Chatham, Goderich, *Guelph, Kitchener (Waterloo Region), London, Owen Sound, St Thomas (Elgin County), Sarnia, Stratford, Walkerton, Windsor

*Update re Guelph October 21, 2020: In-person criminal trials and preliminary inquiries at the Guelph courthouse (36 Wyndham Street South) are suspended effective October 21, 2020 until further notice. See Notice to the Profession and the Public – In-Person Criminal Hearings Temporarily Suspended at Guelph (36 Wyndham Street South)

All participants in a trial or preliminary inquiry, including the accused person(s), counsel and witness(es) will attend in person at the courthouse for the hearing, unless a judge has directed otherwise.

As part of the return to operations plan, the Ministry is implementing health and safety measures in each courthouse.   More information about the precautionary health and safety measures implemented by the Ministry at courthouses is available on the following website:  COVID-19: Reopening courtrooms.

For details about conducting trials and preliminary inquiries during the COVID-19 pandemic, please see:

Court operations will continue to expand with additional courthouses and courtrooms added as the Ministry continues to implement its plan across the province, with a targeted completion date of November 1, 2020.  Please continue to check this website for updates.


COVID-19 Trial Readiness Courts

Unless otherwise directed by the Regional Senior Judge and until further notice, all cases currently scheduled for a trial or preliminary inquiry will be spoken to approximately one week before the scheduled hearing date before a judge presiding in a special COVID-19 Trial Readiness Court. The purposes of the Trial Readiness Courts are:

  1. to confirm that trials or preliminary inquiries are ready to proceed on their hearing date; and
  2. to assign cases into courtrooms that are open and operating.

The schedule for Trial Readiness Courts in each court location is found here:

https://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/covid-19/trial-readiness-courts/

For details about Trial Readiness Courts, please see:


Scheduling Trials and Preliminary Inquiries 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court established a new procedure for setting trial dates remotely, using a combination of an online form and a trial scheduling conference with the Trial Coordinator’s office.  The Court also established a priority order and timeline for the setting of trial and preliminary inquiry dates.  For details, please see:

In cases where there is an election as to mode of trial, if an accused person has not made their election, the defence may file a written Notice of Election, which can be signed electronically and filed with the Court by attaching it with the Trial / Preliminary Inquiry Scheduling Form.


Case Management Courts (including set date courts and remand courts)

Case Management Appearances by Accused Persons who are in Custody

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, criminal case management appearances for accused persons who are in custody have been conducted by remote appearance (audioconference or videoconference).


Waiver of Personal Attendance and Request for Adjournment / Remand by Accused Persons in Custody

The Court has issued a Practice Direction that permits accused persons who are in custody to waive their right to appear personally before the Court and to request to have their case adjourned in their absence, by instructing defence counsel to complete and file a Waiver and Request for Adjournment/Remand in Accused Person’s Absence form on their behalf.  For details, please see:


Virtual Case Management Courts for Accused Persons who are out of Custody

The Ontario Court of Justice is implementing a system for conducting criminal case management appearances for accused persons who are not in custody by using Zoom.  Zoom allows participants to join the case management hearing by videoconference or by audioconference (telephone).  Below is a list of court locations in which virtual case management courts have been implemented.

Each case management court has its own unique video link and its own unique telephone number / passcode combination that is needed to connect to the court. Click on a court location to see the scheduling and connection information specific to that location:

Barrie Belleville Bracebridge
Brampton Brantford Brockville
Cayuga Chatham Cobourg
Cochrane Cornwall Dryden
Fort Erie Fort Frances Goderich
Gore Bay Guelph Haileybury
Hamilton Kenora Kingston
Kitchener L’Orignal Lindsay
London Milton Napanee
Newmarket North Bay Orangeville
Orillia Oshawa Ottawa
Owen Sound Parry Sound Pembroke
Perth Peterborough St. Catharines
St. Thomas Sarnia Simcoe
Stratford Sault Ste Marie Sudbury
Thunder Bay Timmins Toronto (College Park)
Toronto (Old City Hall) Toronto (311 Jarvis) Toronto East (1911 Eglinton)
Toronto North (1000 Finch) Toronto West (2201 Finch) Walkerton
Welland Windsor Woodstock

The Ontario Court of Justice has implemented virtual criminal case management courts in almost all base court locations across Ontario. Province-wide implementation of virtual criminal case management courts will continue over the next several weeks in the few remaining base courts and in satellite court locations.  Please check back for updates.

For more information about virtual case management courts, see Scheduling and Conducting of Virtual Criminal Case Management Appearances.

For technical information about participating in a Zoom hearing, please see the ZOOM User Guide for Remote Hearings in the Ontario Court of Justice.


Enhanced Designation of Counsel 

The Court encourages accused persons with legal representation to consider filing an Enhanced Designation of Counsel. Accused persons who are represented by counsel and who have filed an Enhanced Designation of Counsel may have their matters adjourned, without the accused personally appearing, in accordance with the procedure set out in the Practice Direction and in accordance with rule 4.5 of the Criminal Rules of the Ontario Court of Justice. Please see:


 Adjournments of Case Management Court Appearances 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, criminal case management appearances for out-of-custody accused persons have been adjourned, in the accused person’s absence. Between March 16, 2020 and August 7, 2020, cases were adjourned for approximately 10 weeks.  Between August 24, 2020 and November 6,  2020 cases have been, or are being, adjourned for approximately five weeks.  For details, and to find out what date your matter has been, or is being, adjourned to, please see:

You will also find courthouse specific information about automatic adjournment dates by checking the relevant court location:

The number of people who may be present in the courthouse and in the courtroom has been restricted to comply with health and safety precautions and maintain safe physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  For this reason, criminal case management appearances for accused persons who are not in custody have been adjourned automatically, in the accused person’s absence, commencing March 16, 2020 until virtual criminal case management courts are implemented in a specific court location.

If you have a case management criminal court appearance in the Ontario Court of Justice in a location that does not have a virtual case management court (i.e., the court location does not appear in the above chart titled “Virtual Criminal Case Management Courts – Ontario Court of Justice”), do not attend court. The court will adjourn your matter without you being present, using a court order called a “bench warrant with discretion”, which will require you to attend court on the new date.


Guilty Plea Proceedings

The Court continues to hear guilty pleas by accused persons who are in custody and urgent guilty pleas by persons who are out of custody, for example, where there is a deadline for eligibility for a particular program or where an accused is on particularly onerous bail conditions.

In addition, the Court will also hear non-urgent guilty pleas by accused persons who are not in custody, where the Regional Senior Judge is satisfied that the necessary courthouse resources are in place.

Priority will be given to guilty pleas involving accused persons who are in custody.

For further details, please see:


Bail Proceedings

Bail Hearings Protocol

To ensure that bail proceedings are dealt with effectively, the Court has established a protocol governing the conduct of bail hearings. Please see:


Applications to Vary Release Orders and Police Undertakings

The Ontario Court of Justice has established procedures to allow individuals to apply to vary their release conditions by electronic means rather than attending at the courthouse. The new procedures govern consent variations of release conditions for individuals who have been released either by the Court (s. 515 of the Criminal Code) or by the police (s. 498, 499 or 503 of the Criminal Code). Please see:


Judicial Pre-Trials

The Ontario Court of Justice continues to offer judicial pre-trials (JPTs) to address resolution options (including withdrawals or guilty pleas), accurate time estimates, and procedural and evidentiary issues that promote the proper use of trial time.

Mandatory JPTs

In addition to the existing range of cases that are subject to JPTs, as specified in the Court’s Judicial Criminal Pre-Trial Best Practices, JPTs are mandatory in the following criminal cases, unless a Regional Senior Judge directs otherwise:

  1. cases that were scheduled for a trial or preliminary inquiry that was, or will be, adjourned due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  2. cases that are scheduled for a trial or preliminary inquiry up to October 30, 2020.

Please see s. 6 of Notice to Counsel and the Public re: Criminal Matters in the Ontario Court of Justice for details about mandatory JPTs.


Serving and Filing Court Documents

For information about serving and filing court documents, please see s. 5 of Notice to Counsel and the Public re: Criminal Matters in the Ontario Court of Justice (May 11, 2020, updated May 22, 2020, and June 1, 2020).


General Notices and Resources

Remote Hearing Guides

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario Court of Justice is holding some court proceedings by using the Zoom platform or the JVN (Justice Video Network) WebRTC  platform, or by audioconference (telephone).

To help to ensure that hearings involving the use of video or telephone communications run effectively, the Court is publishing Guidelines for Conducting Remote Hearings in the Ontario Court of Justice. The Guidelines provide best practices for these types of hearings.

For technical information about participating in a Zoom hearing, please see the ZOOM User Guide for Remote Hearings in the Ontario Court of Justice.

For technical information about participating in a JVN hearing, please see the JVN WebRTC Manual and JVN WebRTC Troubleshooting Tips.


Notice to the Public and the Media

Notice Regarding Public and Media Access to Ontario Court of Justice Proceedings during the COVID-19 Pandemic (July 4, 2020)


Resources for Self-Represented Accused Persons

The following document provides general information to self-represented accused persons who have criminal cases in the Ontario Court of Justice during the COVID-19 pandemic:


Not sure about your next court date in a criminal case?

Criminal cases for out of custody accused persons (including trials, preliminary inquiries, case management appearances, first appearances, set dates and remands) that were adjourned due to COVID-19 were put over to a standard date specified in a court notice.

If you remember the date of your last criminal court appearance you may be able to look up your next court date. You will find courthouse specific information about automatic adjournment dates of case management court appearances on the Contacts and Courthouse Info page by selecting the relevant court location.  For details about how you can attend a criminal case management appearance by videoconference or telephone, see Scheduling and Conducting of Virtual Criminal Case Management Appearances.

To see a list of cases that are scheduled for that day or the next day at a particular courthouse, go to the Daily Court Lists website:  http://www.ontariocourtdates.ca/.

If you are unsure about the date of your next court appearance, whether you are required to attend court on that date, or whether you should be attending in person or by remote technology, please contact your lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer, please see contact the courthouse by email or telephone and ask for assistance.