The World Forum - July 24th, 2024

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Court refuses to say where Ontario judge is located. Defence lawyer says he’s presiding remotely from Barbados


The Ontario Court of Justice is refusing to confirm if one of its judges is hearing cases remotely from the Caribbean after advising its judicial officers to avoid travel due to COVID-19 and not to conduct proceedings from outside the province.

Last week, a Newmarket lawyer told an Oshawa virtual court that Judge Bruce Frazer is spending the winter in Barbados, from where he could potentially send his client to jail via a remote Zoom hearing.

The defence lawyer added that Frazer’s decision to conduct a remote sentencing hearing next month doesn’t comply with the Criminal Code, which states the judge can elect to preside by audio or video conference if he or she has regard to “all the circumstances,” including “the suitability of the location from where the judge or justice will preside.”

Last month, the Superior Court of Justice advised one of its’ judges to stop presiding on cases from the Caribbean, which it called “an oversight. “She will not be scheduled to hear further matters while out of the country,” the Superior Court Chief Justice’s office said in an email to the Star and other media outlets. The CBC reported the judge was in the Turks and Caicos.

Kinahan had no problem with his client’s sex assault trial being held remotely by video conference last fall, when the judge was still in Ontario. Frazer convicted his client in December. A year ago, remote hearings were rare in Ontario but they have become commonplace since the COVID-19 pandemic hit a year ago.

Late last month, an Ontario Court of Justice spokesman told the Star that in January, all judicial officers were “reminded of the government’s public health advice to avoid non-essential travel,” and that “the court also specifically stated that judges and justices of the peace should not sit on proceedings while out of the province of Ontario unless within another province in such close proximity that they remained available to preside in person in their home region.”

Asked to clarify the Ontario Court of Justice’s pandemic policies, and asked specifically about Frazer’s location, spokesperson James Schneider declined to answer any questions about the judge.