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Criminal Law During (and After) COVID-19 by TERRY SKOLNIK



First, the pandemic creates a risk that courts will expand the breadth of crimes such as assault and aggravated assault for conduct such as coughing. It provides compelling reasons why courts must limit the scope of these criminal offences and why judges should not extend the legal framework that applies to HIV non-disclosure to COVID-19 transmissions. Second, the pandemic is changing the bail process. Due to COVID-19 outbreaks in detention centres, courts are rethinking whether pre-trial custody is necessary to maintain public confidence in the criminal justice system. More than ever, judges consider the interests of defendants and detainees when interpreting the concept of “public confidence” —a positive change that limits recourse to pre-trial custody. Third, the pandemic is impacting sentencing as judges move away from custodial punishments. COVID-19 highlights why incarceration and financial penalties disparately impact defendants, which raises concerns regarding proportionality and retributive justifications for punishment both during and beyond the pandemic. Ultimately, this article shows why judges, policy makers, and justice system actors should seize on this unique opportunity to generate lasting positive changes to the criminal justice system that are taking place during the pandemic."



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