News release

Satellite Courtrooms Secured for HRM Criminal Jury Trials

Criminal jury trials will be able to resume safely in Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) with the creation of two new satellite courtrooms for the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.

About 22,000 square feet of leased space has been secured on Mellor Drive in Dartmouth. The space will be converted to safely accommodate two satellite jury courtrooms. Space will also be adapted for jury selections, which can include up to 200 potential jurors.

“The continued operation of the province’s courts has been a priority since the onset of COVID-19,” said Mark Furey, Attorney General and Minister of Justice. “This space will allow for the safe return of in-person criminal jury trials in metro Halifax for counsel, accused, victims, witnesses, jurors, court staff and members of the judiciary.”

Health protocols adopted in response to COVID-19 prompted the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to suspend all jury trials in the province until Sept. 8. All courtrooms and courthouses across the province were later assessed for their capacity to accommodate in-person matters in compliance with public heath guidelines. It was determined that the four criminal jury courtrooms at the Law Courts in Halifax were not large enough to accommodate criminal jury trials and could not be reconfigured to safely hear matters.

Quotes:

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right of accused individuals to be tried within a reasonable time; equally important are the rights of the victims and families involved in these matters. I want to thank the province for its co-operation in securing an appropriate venue for jury trials. Deborah Smith, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia

This was a great example of the judiciary and the Department of Justice collaborating to address a challenging problem in a challenging time. Criminal trials, particularly those involving a jury, have many unique requirements. This is the best option available, given the ongoing situation with the pandemic. Patrick Duncan, Associate Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Quick Facts:

  • the new Dartmouth courtrooms will operate as a satellite location. Staff will only be onsite when jury selections and trials are underway.
  • the satellite courtrooms will be built to ensure required physical distancing.
  • jury trials outside of metro Halifax resumed as of Sept. 8, using offsite locations or reconfiguration of existing court infrastructure.

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