Supreme Court Decision Will Deny Bail To Protect Public Confidence

Update:

The Supreme Court decision in R. v. St-Cloud, 2015 SCC 27 has set down guidelines for future cases, telling judges that protecting public confidence by denying bail need not wait for exceptional or rare cases.
The Supreme Court decision in R. v. St-Cloud, 2015 SCC 27 has set down guidelines for future cases, telling judges that protecting public confidence by denying bail need not wait for exceptional or rare cases. Supreme Court photo by Sean Kilpatrick Canadian Press.

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A Supreme Court of Canada ruling has made it easier for judges to deny accused people bail, at a time when the country’s provincial prisons are bulging with inmates waiting for their trial.

More than half of the country’s 25,000 provincial inmates have not been convicted of a crime, but are simply waiting for a bail hearing or being held until their trial. The provincial corrections system costs $1.9-billion a year.

But the court, perceived by some as soft on crime for its rejection of Conservative crime laws, said Friday that judges have been overly reluctant to deny bail when necessary to maintain public confidence in the justice system. Ruling in the case of a 22-year-old Montreal man who, with two other men, was accused of beating a bus driver in 2013, the court said unanimously that keeping him in jail until his trial was vital to preserving public confidence. News media had broadcast a videotape of the vicious beating.

This decision by the highest court in the country, will mean that alot more crown attorney's across the country will make an application to the presiding judge to have bail denied to the accused.  This will result in many more people will have to sit in jail until their trial date.
This decision by the highest court in the country, will mean that alot more crown attorney’s/prosecutors across the country will make an application to the presiding judge to have bail denied to the accused. This will result in many more people having to sit in jail until their final trial date.

And the court set down guidelines for future cases, telling judges that protecting public confidence by denying bail need not wait for exceptional or rare cases.

“If they make it easier to detain people, more people will be detained,” Toronto lawyer John Norris, who represented the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, an intervenor in the case, said in an interview.

There are three grounds for denying bail to an accused person in Canada: protecting public safety; ensuring the individual shows up for trial; and maintaining public confidence. A Justice of the Peace had rejected Jeffrey St-Cloud’s request to be freed on bail, and a second judge, after Mr. St-Cloud’s preliminary inquiry, also rejected his request. Both judges cited the need to maintain public confidence. But then Mr. St-Cloud appealed to a higher court and was released on bail.

Police picked Mr. St.-Cloud up Friday morning, after the ruling, and took him back to jail. He had been free for the past 20 months. His trial starts next January. “A lot of people will lose the right to be free while waiting for trial. It’s a big, big change in the philosophy of criminal law in Canada,” André Lapointe, a lawyer representing Mr. St-Cloud, said in an interview.

Justice Richard Wagner, who wrote the ruling, stressed the importance of giving meaning to Parliament’s choice to protect public confidence. He came to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s attention as a candidate for the Supreme Court, a source said, when he wrote a 2012 ruling while on the Quebec Court of Appeal denying bail (in order to preserve public confidence) to Jacques Delisle, a former Quebec judge who was hoping to appeal his conviction for murdering his wife.

In a long explanation of who the “public” is, Justice Wagner quoted former chief justice Antonio Lamer, who referred to the “reasonable person,” described as the “average person in the community, but only when that community’s current mood is reasonable.” He also quoted from a 1990 Quebec appeal court ruling that warned of a tendency of the public to become emotional about crime.

More than half of the country’s 25,000 provincial inmates have not been convicted of a crime, but are simply waiting for a bail hearing or being held until their trial. The provincial corrections system costs $1.9-billion a year. This decision by the Supreme Court will result in a greater number of men/women placed in prison, pending their trial.
More than half of the country’s 25,000 provincial inmates have not been convicted of a crime, but are simply waiting for a bail hearing or being held until their trial. The provincial corrections system costs $1.9-billion a year. This decision (R. v. St-Cloud, 2015 SCC 27) by the Supreme Court will result in a greater number of men/women placed in prison, pending their trial.

In the end, he said, judges must be “sensitive to the perceptions of people who are reasonable and well informed. This enables the courts to act both as watchdogs against mob justice and as guardians of public confidence in our justice system.”

He said some judges had misinterpreted a previous Supreme Court ruling denying bail to a man who had inexplicably murdered a woman and intended to behead her. Crimes do not need to be heinous or unexplainable to put public confidence at risk. In fact, he said, any crime can qualify, and judges should consider whether it was a crime against a vulnerable person, or committed by someone who belongs to a criminal organization.

In general, he said the law requires judges to consider the strength of the prosecution’s case and the seriousness and circumstances of the crime, including whether a firearm was involved.

William Trudell, chair of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, said the ruling reads almost like a “defence of presumptive detention.”

Here is the law that was reviewed by the Supreme Court in the decision (R. v. St-Cloud, 2015 SCC 27) described hereinabove:

Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C‑46 

  1. . . .

(10) For the purposes of this section, the detention of an accused in custody is justified only on one or more of the following grounds:

(a) where the detention is necessary to ensure his or her attendance in court in order to be dealt with according to law;

(b) where the detention is necessary for the protection or safety of the public, including any victim of or witness to the offence, or any person under the age of 18 years, having regard to all the circumstances including any substantial likelihood that the accused will, if released from custody, commit a criminal offence or interfere with the administration of justice; and

(c) if the detention is necessary to maintain confidence in the administration of justice, having regard to all the circumstances, including

(i) the apparent strength of the prosecution’s case,

(ii) the gravity of the offence,

(iii) the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence, including whether a firearm was used, and

(iv) the fact that the accused is liable, on conviction, for a potentially lengthy term of imprisonment or, in the case of an offence that involves, or whose subject‑matter is, a firearm, a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of three years or more.

  1. (1) If the prosecutor or the accused intends to show cause under section 515, he or she shall so state to the justice and the justice may, and shall on application by the accused, before or at any time during the course of the proceedings under that section, make an order directing that the evidence taken, the information given or the representations made and the reasons, if any, given or to be given by the justice shall not be published in any document, or broadcast or transmitted in any way before such time as

. . .

(b) if the accused in respect of whom the proceedings are held is tried or ordered to stand trial, the trial is ended.

  1. (1) If a justice, or a judge of the Nunavut Court of Justice, makes an order under subsection 515(2), (5), (6) , (7) , (8)  or (12)  or makes or vacates any order under paragraph 523(2) (b), the accused may, at any time before the trial of the charge, apply to a judge for a review of the order.

(2) An application under this section shall not, unless the prosecutor otherwise consents, be heard by a judge unless the accused has given to the prosecutor at least two clear days notice in writing of the application.

(3) If the judge so orders or the prosecutor or the accused or his counsel so requests, the accused shall be present at the hearing of an application under this section and, where the accused is in custody, the judge may order, in writing, the person having the custody of the accused to bring him before the court.

(4) A judge may, before or at any time during the hearing of an application under this section, on application by the prosecutor or the accused, adjourn the proceedings, but if the accused is in custody no adjournment shall be for more than three clear days except with the consent of the accused.

(5) Where an accused, other than an accused who is in custody, has been ordered by a judge to be present at the hearing of an application under this section and does not attend the hearing, the judge may issue a warrant for the arrest of the accused.

(6) A warrant issued under subsection (5) may be executed anywhere in Canada.

(7) On the hearing of an application under this section, the judge may consider

(a) the transcript, if any, of the proceedings heard by the justice and by any judge who previously reviewed the order made by the justice,

(b) the exhibits, if any, filed in the proceedings before the justice, and

(c) such additional evidence or exhibits as may be tendered by the accused or the prosecutor,

and shall either

(d) dismiss the application, or

(e) if the accused shows cause, allow the application, vacate the order previously made by the justice and make any other order provided for in section 515 that he considers is warranted.

(8) Where an application under this section or section 521  has been heard, a further or other application under this section or section 521  shall not be made with respect to that same accused, except with leave of a judge, prior to the expiration of thirty days from the date of the decision of the judge who heard the previous application.

(9) The provisions of sections 517 , 518  and 519  apply with such modifications as the circumstances require in respect of an application under this section.

  1. (1) If a justice, or a judge of the Nunavut Court of Justice, makes an order under subsection 515(1), (2), (7) , (8)  or (12)  or makes or vacates any order under paragraph 523(2) (b), the prosecutor may, at any time before the trial of the charge, apply to a judge for a review of the order.

(2) An application under this section shall not be heard by a judge unless the prosecutor has given to the accused at least two clear days notice in writing of the application.

(3) If the judge so orders or the prosecutor or the accused or his counsel so requests, the accused shall be present at the hearing of an application under this section and, where the accused is in custody, the judge may order, in writing, the person having the custody of the accused to bring him before the court.

(4) A judge may, before or at any time during the hearing of an application under this section, on application of the prosecutor or the accused, adjourn the proceedings, but if the accused is in custody no adjournment shall be for more than three clear days except with the consent of the accused.

(5) Where an accused, other than an accused who is in custody, has been ordered by a judge to be present at the hearing of an application under this section and does not attend the hearing, the judge may issue a warrant for the arrest of the accused.

(6) Where, pursuant to paragraph (8)(e), the judge makes an order that the accused be detained in custody until he is dealt with according to law, he shall, if the accused is not in custody, issue a warrant for the committal of the accused.

(7) A warrant issued under subsection (5) or (6) may be executed anywhere in Canada.

(8) On the hearing of an application under this section, the judge may consider

(a) the transcript, if any, of the proceedings heard by the justice and by any judge who previously reviewed the order made by the justice,

(b) the exhibits, if any, filed in the proceedings before the justice, and

(c) such additional evidence or exhibits as may be tendered by the prosecutor or the accused,

and shall either

(d) dismiss the application, or

(e) if the prosecutor shows cause, allow the application, vacate the order previously made by the justice and make any other order provided for in section 515 that he considers to be warranted.

(9) Where an application under this section or section 520  has been heard, a further or other application under this section or section 520  shall not be made with respect to the same accused, except with leave of a judge, prior to the expiration of thirty days from the date of the decision of the judge who heard the previous application.

(10) The provisions of sections 517 , 518  and 519  apply with such modifications as the circumstances require in respect of an application under this section.

Ontario: Small Claims Court Claims Can Be Filed Online

Update:

Ontario - Superior Court of Justice located at 361 University Avenue in Toronto, Ontario.
Ontario – Superior Court of Justice located at 361 University Avenue in Toronto, Ontario.

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Ontarians now have a faster, easier way to make a claim in small claims court with the launch of a new online filing service. E-filing is a simple, convenient way to file a claim in small claims court without entering a courthouse.

Following a successful six-month pilot, individuals and businesses from across Ontario can now file small claims court forms and pay court filing fees online, 24-hours-a-day. Claims that are eligible for e-filing include those set out in a contract of $25,000 or less, such as unpaid accounts for goods and services, loans, credit card debt and overdue rent.

The Superior Court of Justice at the Court House located at 361 University Avenue.
The Superior Court of Justice at the Court House located at 361 University Avenue.

Ontarians have two options to file a small claim online:

  • ‘Filing Wizard’ guides those unfamiliar with filing a claim through the process of submitting court documents and paying court filing fees. This option is helpful for those who do not have legal representation by providing an inexpensive and easy to understand option.
  • ‘Quick File’ gives legal professionals and others who frequently file small claims the option of uploading already completed forms.

Making more court services available online will help build a more accessible justice system, and supports the government’s economic plan for Ontario. The four-part plan is building Ontario up by investing in people’s talents and skills, building new public infrastructure like roads and transit, creating a dynamic, supportive environment where business thrives and building a secure savings plan so everyone can afford to retire.

Quick Facts

  • The small claims court e-filing pilot launched in August 2014 at small claims courts in Brampton, Oshawa, Ottawa and Richmond Hill. The pilot was expanded to the Toronto small claims court in March 2015.
  • Not all types of claims can be filed using the online system. Claims for amounts in dispute — such as many claims related to personal injury — cannot be completed using the online process at this time.
  • Since the pilot launched, more than 2,000 claims have been filed online. Nearly 20 per cent of those claims were filed outside regular court hours.
  • The fees charged to file online are the same as those charged to file in person.

Additional Resources

British Columbia Invents New System for Traffic Tickets

Update: see previous posts – September 20, 2104 Vancouver: Revenue is Way Down Using Administrative Penalty System (APS) for Parking Tickets

The Liberals are implementing amendments passed with no fanfare in 2012 to establish a new process for handling offences under the Motor Vehicle Act, similar to the paradigm shift made dealing with drunk drivers in 2010 when most impaired charges and trials were eliminated with a heavy-handed Immediate Roadside Prohibition (IRP) regime.
The Liberals are implementing amendments passed with no fanfare in 2012 to establish a new process for handling offences under the Motor Vehicle Act, similar to the paradigm shift made dealing with drunk drivers in 2010 when most impaired charges and trials were eliminated with a heavy-handed Immediate Roadside Prohibition (IRP) regime.

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The British Columbia government is moving ahead with its plan to shift traffic violation disputes out of the clogged court system.

The change was first announced in 2012 as a way to speed up traffic dispute resolutions and to “create system efficiencies and make processes more accessible for citizens,”  according to a statement from the ministry of justice.

Instead of receiving a ticket, drivers will be handed an electronic driving notice. Then instead of having the option of challenging the violation in court, a driver would appear before a new driver notice review board.

The Ministry of Justice and Public Safety confirmed Tuesday that a two-stage rollout is planned to shift MVA violations from the criminal system. Work is underway on Phase 1, it said, bringing in an electronic ticketing and online payment system; the new hearing system will follow.
The Ministry of Justice and Public Safety confirmed Tuesday that a two-stage rollout is planned to shift MVA violations from the criminal system.
Work is underway on Phase 1, it said, bringing in an electronic ticketing and online payment system; the new hearing system will follow.

No more paper tickets

“E-ticketing, coupled with a faster dispute resolution process, will mean that driver infractions will be recorded against driving records more quickly, thereby enabling interventions for high-risk drivers to be applied in a more timely manner,” according to the ministry.

About 14 per cent of the 500,000 tickets issued each year in B.C. are disputed and the government says the new dispute system will save $8 to $11 million per year by freeing up court resources for other work.

However, lawyer Kyla Lee says allowing a review board to handle traffic disputes is problematic because it “takes away all of the things that, as Canadians, we expect from our court.”

“You have police officers who are entitled to detain you, they’re entitled to handcuff you if necessary and when they turn on their lights behind you, you are required by law to stop your vehicle and present your licence,” Lee told The Early Edition‘s Rick Cluff.

Critics of this new system calls it a 3-step process. Phase two, which has no date set yet, replaces going to court with an administrative process similar to the rules in place now for accused drunk drivers. The new system uses flawed rules of evidence and unfair procedures. The police officer doesn’t have to show up to the hearing and therefore can't be cross-examined.
Critics of this new system calls it a 3-step process. Phase two, which has no date set yet, replaces going to court with an administrative process similar to the rules in place now for accused drunk drivers. The new system uses flawed rules of evidence and unfair procedures. The police officer doesn’t have to show up to the hearing and therefore can’t be cross-examined.

Concerns over lack of due process

“So there’s a huge exercise of power over citizens and we need courts to keep a check and balance on that power.”

Lee says disputing a driving notice under the new system will involve a three-part process. If the driver maintains innocence, they are obligated to provide evidence during a pre-hearing. After that, they will attend an actual hearing.

Police must submit a sworn report as evidence, but if the officer who issued the driving notice can’t do it, another officer can, Lee said.

“At the end of the day, the review board is going to determine how the hearing is going to take place, whether you get to cross examine the officer, whether the officer has to come, what evidence you can present — all of that is determined by the tribunal,” she said.

“You don’t have the power to mount your own defence in the way that you want to.”

The province says the planning and development of the electronic ticketing system is already underway. The new system for resolving traffic disputes out of court will follow at a later date.

Ontario Raising Legal Aid Eligibility Threshold Another 6%

Update:

Less and less people in Ontario can afford legal representation or access to justice. Ontario's 2014 budget committed to increasing the eligibility threshold by six per cent each year over three years.
Less and less people in Ontario can afford legal representation or access to justice. Ontario’s 2014 budget committed to increasing the eligibility threshold by six per cent each year over three years.

Province Giving More People Access to Affordable Legal Services

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Ontario is taking another step to enhance access to legal aid by raising the financial eligibility threshold by six per cent.

By working together with Legal Aid Ontario, the province provides low-income Ontarians access to legal services in areas such as criminal, family, immigration, mental health and poverty law. Ontario’s 2014 budget committed to increasing the eligibility threshold by six per cent each year over three years. This increase marks the second threshold increase and a $31.5 million investment by the Province into the legal aid system for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

As a result of these two threshold increases, an additional 250,000 low-income Ontarians are now eligible to receive legal aid.

Legal Aid Ontario provides services to low-income Ontarians, including:

  • Representation for urgent or serious matters, such as child protection cases
  • Advice about legal rights, obligations, and court processes
  • Assistance in the court room for bail hearings and sentencing
  • Local legal services from a community clinic, such as social assistance and housing law

Enhancing legal aid for Ontario’s most vulnerable is part of the government’s plan to ensure a fair and accessible justice system for all.

Quick Facts

  • Legal Aid Ontario has recently announced increased clinic funding as part of the financial eligibility expansion.
  • Prior to the 2014 Provincial Budget, the threshold had not changed since the 1990s. As a result, more and more Ontarians have been unable to afford legal representation in the court system.

Background Information

Additional Resources

Alberta: Certain Traffic Fines Will Increase by 35%

Update:

A peace officer operates a photo radar camera in Edmonton.
A peace officer operates a photo radar camera in Edmonton.

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Those who run red lights, fail to stop at crosswalk signals, or have a habit of speeding are going to have to dig deeper into their pocketbooks if caught by police.

As part of the Alberta government’s 2015 fiscal budget, a number of fines will increase by an average of 35% for certain traffic offences.

General speeding fines will now range from $78 to $474, and $156 to $949 through construction zones. The fine for failing to obey a red light will increase from $287 to $488, and from $172 to $233 for failing to stop at a signal/crosswalk or advancing into an intersection controlled by a flashing red light in an unsafe manner.

For Cpl. Chris Little with Strathcona County RCMP traffic services, the fine increases come as a pleasant surprise.

A review of provincial traffic fines was long overdue, said Little, but he would like to see increases to violations across the board – such as failing to stop at a stop sign or crossing double solid lines.

“Some of these serious offences we deal with all the time . . . One of the biggest problems we have when it comes to fatalities is people running marked stop signs at rural intersections,” said Little, who doesn’t believe an increase in speeding fines will slow down lead-footed drivers.

“There’s a lot of people that just frankly are not too worried about it. I think your concerned citizen may react to it initially, but I think it will be quickly forgotten, much like distracted driving.”

Little would also like to see an increase to the $57 fine for illegal tinted windows – a problem officers deal with often in the county. He’s also keeping a close eye on a bill that will increase distracted driving fines from $172 to $350, along with a three-demerit point penalty. Alberta is currently the only province in the country that doesn’t hand out demerit points with tickets for distracted driving.

A trip to a courthouse could also get more expensive. As part of the budget, a number of hefty fees have now been introduced when filing various court documents. The fees range from $50 to $150, depending on whats filed. Previously there was no fee at all.