Procedures for court attendance for individuals in adult custody

Last updated: April 2021

COVID-19 in-court protocols

As part of BC Corrections’ commitment to prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19 into correctional centres, the following protocols have been developed for in-person court appearances.

Video court recommendation

To protect the health of individuals in custody and staff, movements in and out of correctional centres need to continue to be minimized wherever possible.

It is recommended that video court options be considered before proceeding with in-person appearances.

  • An amendment to the original warrant of remand may be required and will be the responsibility of the defence counsel assigned to make the necessary arrangements for a video appearance.

Single day in-person court appearances

Individuals returning to a correctional centre after an in-person court appearance are considered as having been in the community and will be treated as new admissions.

  • Cohorts are established based on those admitted to custody on the same day.

Upon return from court, individuals will not return to their regular living unit and will be placed on an induction unit – a dedicated unit to house all new admissions for a 14-day assessment period.

  • Those returning from court will join the cohort established for new admissions from the day of their return.

While on induction units, individuals have access to the same amenities they would on a regular living unit, such as the telephone, canteen and exercise, and they are regularly monitored by health care staff for symptoms of COVID-19 during the 14-day period and before being returned to a regular living unit.

Multiple day in-person court appearances

Individuals with several consecutive days of in-person court appearances will be placed separately from other individuals in custody until they have completed their last court appearance.

  • Their health will be regularly monitored and they will be given as much time out of their single-bunked cell and provided with as many amenities as can be reasonably accommodated in the circumstances.

Following the final day of in-person court attendance, individuals will be placed on an induction unit for 14 days.  

  • Once the individual is placed on an induction unit, they will be able to interact with others within their cohort.

Preparing for an in-person court appearance

While some court matters are being held in-person, video court appearances remain the preferred option.

  • When an individual receives an order to attend court, it will state if the court appearance is by video or in person. If it doesn’t specify, it will be considered an in-person appearance.

Illness

If an individual is not feeling well, even if the symptoms are mild, they must immediately advise a living unit officer or other correctional staff and seek a medical assessment from health care. 

  • The court will determine whether to reschedule the matter to video court and/or for another day.

Individual preferences

If an individual has been scheduled for an in-person court appearance but would prefer a video court appearance, they may speak to their legal counsel. Or, if an individual has been scheduled for a video court appearance but would prefer an in-person court appearance, they may speak to legal counsel.

Legal counsel may be able to apply to the court to request an appearance be changed. These requests should be made as soon as possible, as last-minute requests may not be possible.


COVID safety: in-person court appearance

BC Corrections, BC Sheriff Services and the courts are working together to minimize the transmission and spread of COVID-19. Along with following the provincial health recommendations, these measures are in place to minimize risk:

  • All individuals are screened and asked questions about their health before transport and on arrival at the courthouse.
  • Enhanced cleaning of frequently occupied spaces throughout the courthouse areas and cell block.
  • Reconfigured courtrooms to allow for two-metre distancing and/or barriers installed to mitigate the chances of transmission of droplets if unable to maintain two-metre distancing in the courtroom.
  • Handwashing or use of hand sanitizer upon entry to or exit from the cell block.
  • Signs and/or floor markers directing one-way foot traffic and showing where to sit or stand.
  • Authorized visits with counsel or others will only occur in rooms with a partition between the parties.
  • Individuals will be transported alone in a vehicle compartment and the compartment will be cleaned between each use.
  • Individuals will be in a cell by themselves at the courthouse and the cell will be cleaned between each use.
  • Individuals will be asked to wear a mask if no barrier is in place and it is not possible to maintain two-metre distancing.
  • If an individual is subject to a search, a new pair of nitrile gloves will be used for each search.

COVID safety: return to a correctional centre after an in-person court appearance

BC Corrections has introduced many new procedures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 inside our correctional centres and to keep individuals in provincial custody, our staff, and communities safe.

A new process separates all new admissions from the general population for up to 14 days. Health care is consulted before they are placed within the general population.

  • After an in-person court appearance, individuals will be considered a new admission to the centre.
  • During the 14-day assessment period, health care will perform wellness checks frequently for possible symptoms of COVID-19.

If an individual has several days of in-person court appearances in a row, they will be housed separately for this time until they have completed their last in-person court appearance.

  • Once completed, they will begin the new admission process by being placed on the induction unit for 14 days.