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The question of bail
15/08/2006

One post I didn't get to write in the past few weeks was about recent evidence that suggests two thirds of recent murders in Toronto have been committed by individuals out on bail, on probation, or under some sort of special restriction. (This statistic is based on the cases where they know who was responsible.)

When I read this, I wondered how those who feel tougher sentencing won't have an effect on serious crime can explain these numbers. Obviously bail for accused and sentences for convicted criminals are two different things. Nevertheless, the notion that violent crime can be reduced simply by keeping gun-possessing, violent criminals away from us for longer time periods makes sense. But that's not what I am writing about today.

The news also made me wonder how some can continue to blame the mayor for each of these murders, but that's also a post for another time.

I wanted to write specifically about the question of bail.

Today's Toronto Star has an article about the bail that has been granted to one of those charged in connection to the Boxing Day shooting of Jane Creba. It raises several points.

On one hand, the very important point is made that bail is essential to our justice system. We believe in innocence until proven guilty, and bail is where we prove it.

On the other hand, consider the case of Andrew Smith. Smith -- the accused in the Creba case -- was arrested on July 1, 2005 for assault and let out on bail on July 14. In August he was arrested for a variety of crimes, including violating his bail conditions. When arrested once more for connection to the Boxing Day shootings he was again accused of violating his bail conditions.

He hasn't been tried or convicted for any of these crimes and is presently out on bail for three seperate cases. Something is wrong with this picture.

Ontario PC Leader John Tory goes too far, in my opinion, when he says bail should simply be denied to those accused of violent crimes. I'm all for tough sentencing, but we need to convict them first.

It's difficult to suggest what a judge could do differently while still recognizing that Andrew Smith hasn't been convicted of any crime yet.

At the very least, however, we should be demanding a better justice system. One that can bring criminal cases to trial in a matter of weeks rather than months. It has been a year since Smith was charged with his first count of violating bail orders. That case should be settled by now, and if he was convicted it would be ample grounds for denying bail in this case.


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