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Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19

Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19

Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19 - main content

Jury Arrival and Departure

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A Statement from the Action Committee

Our Committee exists to support Canada's courts as they work to protect the health and safety of all court users in the COVID-19 context while upholding the fundamental values of our justice system. These mutually sustaining commitments guide all of our efforts.

NOTICE: This document highlights best practices when the epidemiological situation and relevant risk assessments call for enhanced public health measures to control the spread of COVID-19 in a court environment. Please contact local public health authorities for current requirements, which may differ from the practices outlined in this document, and your local Occupational Health and Safety regulator for current guidance specific to the workplace.

The Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19 has released this Tip Sheet to help guide safe court operations in the context of the pandemic.

This Tip Sheet is informed by Principles and Perspectives drawn from health and safety experts, the judiciary, governments and courts administrators - each motivated by a shared responsibility to protect the health and safety of court users and personnel in planning for the resumption or continuation of in-court operations.

It applies a phased method of risk identification and risk mitigation recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada, and by the Action Committee in its Orienting Principles on Safe and Accessible Courts. This method involves surveying the various elements of court operations, identifying risks for COVID-19 transmission, and implementing mitigation strategies according to a hierarchy of controls. Elimination and substitution are the starting points of this hierarchy, complemented by engineering controls, administrative controls, and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and masks, as appropriate, each of which combine to form an integrated and thorough approach to protecting health and safety.

Process Survey and Risk Identification: Jury Arrival and Departure

The operation of criminal jury processes differs by jurisdiction, location, and court facility. Common elements of jurors’ daily arrival to and departure from the court facility are described below, in order to help define risks and inform appropriate control measures. A more detailed account of these elements is available in the Action Committee’s Phases and Steps of a Criminal Jury Trial.

Elements of the process

  • Daily arrival to and departure from court - Jurors are typically responsible for transporting themselves to and from court for each day of a trial. Although they typically remain together during recesses, they may also leave the court facility independently (for example, to eat lunch or get fresh air). Jurors typically return to their homes at the end of each day. In certain circumstances, such as trials in remote regions, jurors may be housed in temporary accommodations (such as a hotel) for the duration of a trial.
  • Movement to jury room and use of common facilities - Jurors may access court facilities through common points of entry and exit or be directed to designated entry and exit points. They then proceed to jury rooms, where they congregate as individual (12-14 person) juries before being called into the courtroom. Jury rooms sometimes include male and female washrooms; in other settings, jurors make use of washroom facilities in common use areas of the building.

Hazards related to this process

  • Hazards relate both to jurors potentially contracting COVID-19 and transmitting it within the court facility, and to jurors being exposed to COVID-19 within the court facility and transmitting it to others in their homes and communities. Specific hazards include:
    • Poorly ventilated and crowded spaces
    • Prolonged or multiple close contacts and close-range conversations between jurors, court and security personnel, and other individuals at various stages, including during the commute to and from court, especially if using public transportation; when congregating at common entry and exit points; when using washrooms; during breaks, either within or outside the court facility, and when returning to jurors’ homes
    • Physical contact with common or high touch surfaces at all stages, including in the courtroom, the jury box, the witness box, washrooms and other common facilities, and during movement between locations - these surfaces can include doors, elevators, chairs, railings, and desks

Mitigating Risks

Accounting for each element of jurors’ arrival to and departure from the courthouse, the following control measures could be introduced to reduce risks of COVID-19 transmission and to help protect the health and safety of court users and personnel.

In the exercise of due diligence and responsible stewardship, control measures are likely to evolve with knowledge related to the risks posed by COVID-19 and the usefulness of such measures to mitigate those risks.

Physical Distancing

  • Maintain at least 2 metres (6 feet) distance between people whenever possible, for example by:
    • Designating special entries and exits for jurors, so as to alleviate congestion at common building access points
    • Designating separate areas for courthouse entry and exit, in order to encourage directional flow and reduce congregation
    • Using markers or barriers to create walking paths
    • Marking floors with distancing cues
    • Blocking seats in waiting areas or other common spaces that may be used by jurors during breaks
    • Staggering start times if multiple hearings are occurring in a court facility on the same day.
  • Consider using an alternate facility as feasible, such as a conference centre, sports complex or arena, or large community centre where available court spaces are insufficient for physical distancing.



In the context of daily jury arrival and departure, examples of administrative controls may include:

  • Providing information to jurors (via a common information package or guidance from a designated court official) on precautions to prevent COVID-19 contraction or transmission while outside of court
  • Asking that jurors inform a designated court official of any concerns regarding possible exposure to COVID-19 in their homes or communities, or within the court facility, during the course of a trial
  • Training designated court officials to respond appropriately to any COVID-19 exposure concerns raised by jurors during a trial, including implementing additional health and safety measures where appropriate

In the court setting generally, additional examples of administrative controls may include procedures, policies or protocols relating to screening, Contact tracing, cleaning and disinfecting, and other measures. For more information, see the Action Committee’s Orienting Principles on Safe and Accessible Courts and Guidance on Protecting Court Personnel and Court Users and General Practices for Cleaning and Disinfecting.

Masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Promote the wearing of well-constructed, well-fitting masks suitable to the setting and intended activities, as recommended by public health authorities
  • Provide well-constructed, well-fitting disposable masks to all jurors, court users and personnel, and clear instructions on how to safely and properly put on, wear and remove masks

For additional guidance on the use of masks and PPE in the court setting, see the Action Committee’s Orienting Principles on Safe and Accessible Courts.

Document last updated December 15, 2022