Most B.C. court cases adjourned due to COVID-19 pandemic

Virus closes Supreme Court

In an attempt to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, most court cases in B.C. have been postponed.

On Wednesday, Supreme Court of BC Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson announced that "all but urgent matters" will be suspended until at least the end of April, while a similar directive was made for provincial court cases Tuesday. 

B.C.'s provincial court put out a notice to lawyers across the province that all criminal files where the accused is not in custody must be adjourned to June, to limit the number of people inside courthouses. This measure is expected to slow the transmission of the virus. 

Cases considered urgent, those where the accused is in custody, will be proceeding as normal, but lawyers are being encouraged to call in to hearings, or use video conferencing. The sentencing hearing of arsonist Jesse Pearce took place in Kelowna court Tuesday, but the majority of cases are being adjourned.

Details on the Supreme Court closure will be announced later today.

“This is uncharted waters. I've never seen anything like it,” said Gavin Jones, a defence lawyer who's been practising law in Kelowna for 14 years. “It's quiet here. Nobody's here, and I think it's going to get less and less.”

Last week, all jury trials that were scheduled through to the end of May were postponed. In Kelowna, Kevin Costin's murder trial, scheduled to begin in mid-April, will be impacted. It's unclear how the new announcement will impact the judge-only murder trial for Tejwant Danjou that began in Supreme Court in late February. The trial is currently on a week break.

Most family law cases and small claim civil cases scheduled between now and May 4 will also be pushed back.

Jones said the court registry has been labelling all recent adjournments as a “COVID adjournment.” While a 2016 Supreme Court of Canada ruling has set time limits for the Crown to secure convictions, Jones doesn't believe the COVID adjournments will impact that timeline, calling it a “special unforeseen circumstance.”

While Okanagan courthouses remains open for now, courts in Campbell River, Chilliwack, Nanaimo and Vancouver have been closed entirely.

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