Friday, May 02, 2008

A new crime to an old dance

The Brampton couple who were slain yesterday in an unprovoked attack sounds like they were credit to Canada and net asset to the human race. Here is a link to the Toronto Star’s account but it is this sentence which jumped out at me.:
Described by police as "outstanding members of the community," the parents were stabbed to death by a man described as "well known" to police and out on bail.
When police arrived at the plaza around 4:20 p.m., the alleged attacker, a Brampton resident who has a history of committing violent crime, police said, had already turned his knives on himself.

Here you have an offender - who is well known to police, a history of violent crimes, and still some Justice of the Peace or possibly a criminal court justice used their ‘superior’ reasoning skills to grant the accused bail. What most people in this province do not realize is that a Justice of the Peace is purely a political appointment. It is most often used as a reward for service. There are no particular pre-requisites to be a JP other than being of ‘good character, no criminal record and a Canadian citizen’. Yes, one can be an office cleaner, an exotic dancer or a used car salesperson and still reasonably aspire to being a JP. The key word to that future is ‘patronage’.

One of the most common things duties for a JP to do is to sit on the bench and preside over bail hearings in order to determine which accused receive bail and with what conditions. I have not worked as a criminal law clerk in the last seven years but my experience suggests the odds are overwhelming that this accused was released on bail granted by a Justice of the Peace.

Generally, a criminal court justice’s time is saved for a bail review hearing. An accused can always elect to have his initial bail hearing presided over by a bona fide justice but the trade off is a few weeks waiting in jail for a justice’s docket to be free to hear the matter; so it is quite common to have most accused elect to have their matter heard by JP. Of course, an accused has the right after a JP has denied him bail to have the matter reviewed before a justice to ensure the JP did rule according to law.

Take a day off and go sit as a spectator in a regular bail court and count how many accused are brought up on new charges while out on bail awaiting trial for older matters. Count how many JP’s grant multiple bails – I bet the number will surprise you. It really is time to overhaul our courts.

1 comment:

Chris Taylor said...

I think you are correct in this matter. I am willing to bet that if there is political fallout from this, the qualification and selection of JPs will definitely not be the focal point of any remediation.