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Senate passes bill to modernize criminal justice system

Bill S-4 now moves to the House of Commons for consideration.

Government legislation to help address challenges faced by the courts, which were caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has been adopted in the Senate.

Bill S-4 expands the remote appearance regime that permits an accused person to appear by videoconference or audio conference, and increases the use of technology in the jury selection process. It also expands the existing telewarrant regime so that applications for a wider variety of search warrants, authorizations and orders can be made by telecommunications.

The changes are designed to help court operations respect both public health concerns and the right an accused person to be tried within a reasonable time frame, explained Senator Pierre Dalphond, sponsor of the legislation, during a speech in the Senate.

“In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic became a public health emergency of international concern, many courts were able to rely on the remote-appearance provisions that were expanded or introduced by Bill C-75 in 2019 and which had just come fully into force. However, the pandemic has made it evident that more legislative clarity and additional mechanisms were needed. Bill S-4 will provide just that,” he said.

“Since many of the COVID-19 measures have now been lifted, you may be wondering whether this bill is still necessary. It is still just as relevant. It will enable the criminal justice system to make permanent the options for using technology in court processes that were developed or improved during the pandemic. Making these options permanently available to accused persons, inmates and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system will make our system more flexible, which I hope will help reduce court delays.”

The legislation must be adopted in the House of Commons before it can become law.

Senate passes bill to modernize criminal justice system