Courts contend with COVID-19

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Provincial courts continue to grapple with the affects of the COVID-19 pandemic and distancing restrictions.

The Provincial Court of Alberta is limiting all regular operations until further notice.

Future impacts were discussed as docket day closed in High Prairie provincial court March 23 when only five people appeared and kept their distance.

Judge D.R. Shynkar wonders how courts will deal with the delays after the restrictions are eased.

“We’re going to have to address how we’re going to have to deal with the backlog,” says Judge Shynkar.

“We’ll work at is as we go for everybody to be safe.”

Judge Shynkar is the assistant judge for the north region, which extends to Slave Lake, Peace River and Grande Prairie.

All unresolved matters on the March 23 docket were put over for 10 weeks, to June 1.

No members of the public are permitted in the courtroom unless they are required, such as counsel, parties, witnesses and media.

Courts are dealing with people who have only urgent criminal matters, in–custody matters, and urgent family or child protection matters.

When regular court returns, Judge Shynkar wonders how the backlog will be handled.

“We may need to have a second duty counsel on a temporary basis.”

Trials may still proceed.

Crown prosecutor Terrance Hudson suggests that appearances may have to be made by telephone or CCTV.

Duty counsel Harry Jong agrees to some degree, but he says evidence and discussion is more effective when people are present in the courtroom.

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