The B.C. government is moving to safely support increased in-person court hearings.

To make this happen, it’s working with the judiciary and other justice and public safety-sector stakeholders.

“COVID-19 has brought unprecedented challenges for court users and justice sector partners,” said David Eby, Attorney General. “Working with the judiciary, we are assessing courthouses to determine the best approach to protect the health of court users. Each courthouse is different, but this might mean measures such as marking floors to indicate distances in lines at registry, elevators, washrooms and inside courtrooms, and disinfecting courtrooms after use.”

Courthouses and courtrooms throughout the province are being evaluated to ensure they meet the health and safety requirements established by the provincial health officer and WorkSafeBC.

Assessments will also determine what additional physical distancing and hygiene measures will be required to stop the spread of COVID-19, prior to resuming in-person appearances.

Plans may differ by location and courthouse configuration.

The ministry is in the process of meeting with stakeholders, including judges, counsel, court managers and others, to make recommendations and the changes necessary to keep the public safe when attending court.

Within the next few weeks, a limited number of courtrooms are expected to be available throughout the province for in-person hearings.

The ministry has also been working to increase technology enhancements outlined in the Court Digital Transformation Strategy, which includes continued expansion of technology for virtual hearings in cases where it is found appropriate.

Two advisory groups have been established by the province to help support courts and tribunals in delivering services as effectively as possible during the pandemic while minimizing its impact on the justice system.