Trial postponed, deadlines pushed back… The current situation creates an immense pressure on a justice system that is already overloaded. However, the health crisis forces the system to adopt technology solutions to enable the activities of the courts to resume gradually while respecting the rules of social distancing. But is this transformation forced to be deep and lasting ?
A system of justice in slow motion
The measures of social distancing has affected the work of the courts that welcome normally many people. Like many other sectors, the justice system has had to reduce its activities.
Only urgent cases are currently heard by the courts : for example, an urgent application for a child care or court appearances of the persons who are being detained. However, the majority of the trials of the housing authority are deferred, because they are not considered to be urgent for the moment.
Certain time limits for taking steps in justice have been suspended. This is especially the case if you receive a ticket. In general, you have 30 days to pay the fine or to contest it. This period is suspended since the march 23, 2020. This means that the days elapsed since that date are not taken into account in the period of 30 days.
This is valid for other types of deadlines. For example, you typically have a time limit to claim an amount of money to another person in a civil trial. Since march 15, 2020, this time period is also suspended.
If you are in any of these situations, stay alert to government announcements. The delays are expected to resume at the end of the state of public health emergency.
Off Jordan : criminals released after the crisis ?
The judgment in Jordan provides that a person who is accused of a crime has the right to stand trial within a certain period of time. This time limit is not suspended, and so continues to drain. However, it is possible to exceed this time limit, for example in the case of an exceptional situation. The current situation might well be regarded as unique, but each case will be assessed on a case-by-case basis : an accused will not be released automatically.
The future of the justice system
The current situation has forced the actors of the justice system to adapt their practices. Some of these changes may alter the functioning of the justice system in the long term. The modernization had already begun, for example with the scanning of certain folders. Other practices have begun to develop and are expected to multiply in the coming months.
Since the beginning of the crisis, the courts have put in place measures to hold hearings in virtual video-conference. All the world is at a distance : the parties, their lawyers, the witnesses, the judge and the clerk. For the moment, this practice is not widespread, but the judges are currently trained and the technologies are being adapted. The number of hearings to be virtual so should be very soon on the rise.
This practice has good chances to continue after a health crisis. Journalists and the general public can attend these hearings when the type of folder the will.
Professionals in the right distance
Lawyers and notaries offer services remotely, for example by telephone or video conferencing. Mediation sessions are also offered remotely to allow people to settle their conflicts without the need for the court.
It is also possible to sign some important documents remotely. For example, you might sign a deed of sale and officially become the owner of your house without having to move from your notary ! However, it is not yet known if this practice will remain possible after the health crisis.
Informational text – This text is not legal advice; it is recommended to consult with a lawyer or a notary public to such a notice. Éducaloi is a non-profit organization whose mission is to inform Quebecers of their rights and obligations in a clear language”.