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Criminal Rules of the Ontario Court of Justice

The Criminal Rules of the Ontario Court of Justice govern procedures in all criminal proceedings at the Ontario Court of Justice.

Notice re New Criminal Rule 3.4 in force July 5, 2021

New Rule 3.4, which comes into force July 5, 2021, authorizes the use of electronic signatures to sign electronic documents. Rule 3.4(1) sets out the definition of electronic signature. Under rule 3.4(2), the Court may issue practice directions authorizing additional methods of signing particular electronic documents.

Notice re New Criminal Rule 4.5 in force July 1, 2020

New Rule 4.5, which comes into force July 1, 2020, provides that the court may permit an accused person who is represented by counsel or an authorized agent to appear by form or written request rather than personally appear, in accordance with a procedure set out in a practice direction.  Jurisdiction over the matter and the accused person is preserved under s. 485(1.1) of the Criminal Code.

Ten Things To Know About the Criminal Rules

  1. The Criminal Rules come into effect on July 1, 2012 and apply to all criminal proceedings across the province before the Ontario Court of Justice.
  2. The objective of the Criminal Rules is that proceedings are dealt with “justly and efficiently. The Criminal Rules specifically describe what is meant by dealing with proceedings “justly and efficiently”.
  3. The old Criminal rules were enacted in 1997.  The Criminal Rules reflect the many changes since that time in criminal law and practice, court administration, and technology.
  4. The Criminal Rules are brief, written in plain language and contain extensive commentary regarding their interpretation and application. This reflects the reality that many accused today do not have legal counsel or are unrepresented.
  5. There are 5 Criminal Rules, compared to 32 old Criminal Rules.
  6. There are 3 Forms, compared to 15 old Forms. There is an Application form, a Response, and a Consent form.
  7. The Criminal Rules emphasize timely and detailed information sharing to ensure that matters are dealt with on a timely and informed basis, rather than  matters being delayed because of poor advance preparation.
  8. Applications regarding pre-trial matters such as adjournment applications, counsel withdrawals, or applications for a Charter stay must be heard at least 60 days before the scheduled trial date, unless the Court orders otherwise.
  9. Judicial pre-trials must be attended by parties having decision-making authority. Focus hearings must be attended by counsel who will conduct the preliminary hearing, or a designate counsel with decision-making authority.
  10. Judges retain the power to excuse any non-compliance with the Criminal Rules, to the extent necessary to ensure that proceedings are dealt with “justly and efficiently”.