Provincial court reopens after six months

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Alex Kurial
Local Journalism Initiative

Some Lambton County Court Services have reopened, but it will still be awhile before in-person hearings resume.
Court reception opened Friday to pay tickets and fines or collecting forms. Since the building closed on Mar. 16 due to the COVID-19 outbreak all these services were online.
Court Services Manager Cindy Vermeiren says until hearings resume most matters can still be taken care of online, without having to come in. There is also an on-site drop box where people can bring forms. Some issues, such as working out payment plans, need to be done in-person.
Visitors will be given a COVID-19 screening test at the door, must wear a mask, and provide their name and phone number for contact tracing.
Remote audio hearings for provincial offenses like traffic tickets will begin by phone on Sept. 28, and include guilty pleas, adjournments, first appearances and withdrawals. The Superior Court of Justice and Ontario Court of Justice have conducted court this way since March.
Physical court is scheduled to return Oct. 19. Limited seating, reduced occupancy and plexiglass dividers will be some of the social distancing measures people can expect.
There will also be a new queueing system. While all cases used to be scheduled for 10 am – bringing dozens of people to the building at one time – people attending court will now get an electronic alert when it’s time for their hearing. Hearings will be spaced out into smaller groups who attend every hour.
Cases scheduled between Mar. 16 and Oct. 16 are receiving a new date. People should watch for these notices in the mail.