This week the federal government announced 54-million dollars of funding to combat illegal gun and gang activity. A lot of that money is earmarked to fund specialized firearm bail prosecutors.
This was no surprise, talking a big game about getting tougher on bail it is a typical government response to any perceived increase in crime.
Just like last year when Toronto Mayor John Tory demanded that the provincial government “toughen up bail guidelines” for gun crimes peddling the false notion that, “We can’t have people getting out on bail 20 minutes after they’re arrested for using a gun.”
Ottawa’s mayor Jim Watson was quick to jump on the knee-jerk tough on crime bandwagon.
And so did Doug Ford, who incorrectly asserted that we have “a system that lets far too many criminals convicted of gun crimes out on bail and back on the streets the very next day.”
So, the government is spending more money to try to deny more people bail. At the same time Doug Ford has cut legal aid funding for bail hearings.
Denying more people bail is a chicken-little solution.
The truth is that bail is difficult to obtain for serious crimes and repeat offenders. Most gun crimes and offences committed while on bail are already subject to reverse-onus bail provisions. This means that, unlike other offences, it is the accused who must satisfy a court that they are safe to release — not the state that must show why they should be detained. It is already the case that serious offenders will be detained if they pose a risk to the public. Heck, federal law also allows serious offenders to be detained bail even if they don’t pose a risk to the public but if their release would nonetheless undermine confidence in the justice system.
That real facts are that when a person is accused of a criminal offence, even if it is a serious crime, they are presumed to be innocent. The right to reasonable bail is a constitutional right. The presumption of innocence is hollow indeed when it is enjoyed from an overcrowded prison cell.
More than half of Ontario’s jail population is made up of individuals awaiting trial. These prisoners on “remand” are presumed innocent and their numbers have doubled over the past decade. Shockingly, according to Statistics Canada, almost 70 per cent of these remanded prisoners are accused of non-violent offences.
It is important to get things right at your bail hearing. People who are denied bail are more likely to plead guilty – even when they are innocent. And people detained in jail are more likely to be convicted and serve longer sentences.
Every lawyer at AGP is a certified criminal specialist. We will fight for your freedom.
If you have been charged in Ottawa or anywhere in Eastern Ontario give us a call. And for the right case we will appear anywhere in Ontario. We accept legal aid Initial consultations are confidential and always free.