REGINA -- Saskatchewan’s Court of Queen’s Bench has announced it’s postponing all jury trials given the worsening COVID-19 situation in the province.

Trials scheduled to begin between now and the end of December will be postponed, said Courts of Saskatchewan in a news release on Thursday.

“As an essential service, it’s important that the public continues to have access to the critical and necessary services the Court provides,” said Martel D. Popescul, the Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench.

“However, the court recognizes the public health risks posed by COVID-19 and is committed to taking the steps necessary to safeguard the health of everyone in our courtrooms and court facilities.”

Jury trials require participation from many people who live in a broad area, the court said, adding that people are required to be physically present in the courtroom each day for the duration of a trial.  

Popescul said the court will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in the province and adapt its operations to the changing circumstances as needed.

Jury trials had resumed in September after they were postponed in the spring. Members had to follow strict physical distancing and public health protocols. Four jury trials have proceeded in that time.

There were four jury trials scheduled for the remainder of 2020.

Those accused can re-elect trial by judge alone, causing the trial to proceed in the scheduled time frame.

They can also have the trial adjourned to a date in the new year. These adjournments will receive rescheduling priority, the court said.