Province to Establish New Bail Court

Photo of a two-storey stone courthouse.

The Province is working to improve efficiency and reduce backlogs and delays in the Provincial Court by providing the resources to set up Nova Scotia’s first bail court.

The new bail court will be established in the Halifax Regional Municipality and will be able to hear cases virtually from across the province.

“Reducing the backlog and keeping our courts running efficiently is a high priority for the Department, the judiciary and our partners,” said Brad Johns, Attorney General and Minister of Justice. "Moving bail to a specialized court will help streamline matters heard in other courtrooms and enable more trials to be held sooner, reducing the possibility of cases being dismissed without a trial. We will continue to look for innovative ways to improve our justice system, like this first-ever dedicated bail court, and ensure all Nova Scotians have access to justice.”

Typically, Provincial Court judges preside over bail matters, either virtually or in person, during regular business hours. Presiding Justices of the Peace handle bail matters after hours, as needed. 

“Nova Scotia is long overdue for a bail court," said The Hon. Perry F. Borden, Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia. "It is not uncommon to have dozens of accused individuals in custody every day. These can be lengthy contested matters; having dedicated resources for bail hearings is a more efficient and effective approach that will have a positive impact on all areas of the criminal justice system.”

The Province announced eight new Justice Department positions that will be dedicated to operating the bail court. Four additional Presiding Justices of the Peace will be appointed. 

To support an increase in casework, Nova Scotia Legal Aid will also receive an annual grant of $227,000 to hire a new staff lawyer and a court support worker.

What is bail? 

Bail is used when a person is charged with a crime and, rather than being held in custody while awaiting trial, is released under certain conditions imposed by the court. 

Who is entitled to bail? 

In all matters, the accused individual is entitled to reasonable bail, subject to some considerations outlined in the Criminal Code of Canada. 

What does a judge consider when asked to grant bail? 

One of the roles of a judge in criminal cases is to determine whether the accused should be granted bail or remanded until the next court appearance. These decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.  

There are three primary considerations outlined in the Criminal Code: attendance in court, public safety and whether detention is necessary to maintain confidence in the administration of justice. The latter is generally a consideration only in very serious offences.

Depending on the case, other considerations may include the accused person's criminal history, their behaviour in court, connections (or lack of) with the community, the type of offences before the court, and the likelihood the accused will commit a further offence or interfere with the administration of justice.

If bail is granted, the conditions are supposed to be the least restrictive deemed necessary to ensure attendance in court and good conduct of the accused person, pending resolution of the matter.