A judicial pre-trial is a meeting, held off the record, between the Crown, defence counsel and a judge. A judicial pre-trial can serve many purposes, depending on the trajectory of the case. A judicial pre-trial will typically be held sometime after a Crown pre-trial. A judicial pre-trial provides an opportunity for the Crown and defence counsel to engage in discussions with a judge, off the record, to gain insight or guidance on various issues in their case. It is not always necessary to have a judicial pre-trial. In many minor cases, a judicial pre-trial is never conducted and a Crown pre-trial alone is sufficient.
Where an accused intends to plead guilty to an offence and the Crown and defence counsel have come to a joint position on penalty, they may use a judicial pre-trial as an opportunity to run the position past a judge off the record to determine whether the position will be accepted. Similarly, where the Crown and defence counsel cannot come to an agreement on penalty, a judicial pre-trial provides an opportunity for both counsels to get input from the judge on their respective positions on penalty. This way, the accused has a better idea of what their penalty will be prior to pleading guilty.
Where an accused intends to set the matter down for trial, a judicial pre-trial is often used an as opportunity to discuss issues in the trial, trial estimates, possible witnesses, disclosure issues and/or possible pre-trial motions.