Though it’s unclear when it will happen and what it will look like, one of the four B.C. Supreme Court courtrooms at the Kamloops Law Courts will undergo renovations to allow for criminal jury trials to run during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The work is expected to begin within weeks, with a jury trial slated to get underway on Nov. 30.
B.C.’s Ministry of Justice has refused to answer any questions about the renovations — the cost, the timeline and what the changes might look like — citing the fact the province is in the midst of an election campaign.
“During the election period, all Government of B.C. communications are limited to health and public safety information, as well as statutory requirements,” the ministry said in a statement in response to questions from KTW.
Some information can be gleaned from a July B.C. Supreme Court memo, which stated jury trials would be allowed to resume as of Sept. 8.
“Where possible, jury courtrooms will be reconfigured or modified to increase the distance between jurors (and from other individuals) in courtrooms,” the memo states. “Where physical distancing cannot be maintained, plexiglass barriers will be installed or other appropriate measures taken. Where courtroom facilities can be made suitable, the trial will take place in the courthouse where it is scheduled to take place.”
In Nelson, a jury trial began late last month in the city’s 93-year-old Capitol Theatre. That decision was made after the lone B.C. Supreme Court courtroom in the city’s historic courthouse was deemed too small.
Other provinces have also opted to hold jury trials off-site.
In the Kamloops Law Courts, courtroom 5D — the largest B.C. Supreme Court courtroom — is expected to be renovated. As it is now, the jury box has 12 chairs sitting side by side in two rows, less than six inches between them.