He is certainly not afraid to bring forward the will of his constituents here in the House of Commons.
My colleague is inviting us to discuss what I believe is a very important and a very serious issue.
This bill asks us to examine how bail decisions are made in certain cases where the prosecutor and defence counsel have agreed to the release of the accused. Ultimately, this reform would not only ensure greater transparency and openness, but it would also ensure that the safety of the victim and the public were fully considered.
Bill C-519 proposes that the prosecutor be required to present evidence that is relevant to the release of the accused before a judge or justice of the peace makes an order for release on bail.
Therefore, it appears that this bill seeks to ensure that a bail court receives all of the relevant information that it needs in order to make an informed decision about the pretrial release of an accused.
This new obligation would not apply in all cases but rather only in cases where the accused has been charged with a serious personal injury offence and where the prosecutor and the defence have agreed that the accused can be granted bail.
Serious personal injury offences are defined in section 752 of the Criminal Code as indictable offences that involve the use or attempted use of violence against a person, or conduct endangering the life or safety of another person, or conduct inflicting severe psychological damage on the person and for which the offender may be sentenced to imprisonment for a minimum of 10 years or more. It also includes sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, and aggravated sexual assault. Bill C-519 is correctly limited to addressing these serious offences.
It should also be noted that Bill C-519 does not alter the existing standards with respect to bail. It does not change the grounds for detaining an accused. The presumption of innocence and the constitutional right not to be denied bail without just cause are not affected by this proposal.
The law provides that in general, accused persons benefit from a basic presumption in favour of release. As detention results in a complete loss of liberty, the law states that bail shall only be denied when there is just cause to do so.
The current Criminal Code provisions set out specific grounds to justify keeping someone in custody before trial.
Under what is commonly referred to as the “primary ground”, bail can be denied when detention is necessary to ensure that the accused does not flee from justice and appears before the court when he or she is required to do so. Under the “secondary ground”, bail can be denied to protect the public. As an example, if there is a substantial likelihood that the accused will reoffend or interfere with the administration of justice if released, bail can be denied. Last, bail can be denied under the “tertiary ground”, which is when the court considers it necessary in order to maintain confidence in the administration of justice.
The prosecutor normally has the onus of demonstrating why it is justified to detain an accused before trial.
This bill does not change these basic tenets, nor does it require the prosecutor to seek to detain an accused charged with a serious personal injury offence.
The summary of the bill clearly states that it is intended to apply in what are commonly referred to as consent release cases.
I would like to take a moment to describe the process around the arrest, the release or detention of accused persons in order to clarify at which stage Bill C-519 would apply and to put it into context.
When a person is arrested without warrant by the police, officers must release the person from custody unless they believe, on reasonable grounds, it is necessary to have that person detained. The purpose of detaining the individual may be based on the need to protect victims of, or witnesses to, the offence.
Officers must decide when to release the accused with or without conditions, or to detain the accused so that the accused may be brought before a judge or justice of the peace for what is referred to in the Criminal Code as a judicial interim release order, commonly referred to as bail.
When police officers believe that there are reasonable grounds not to release an accused, they are required under the law to bring them before a judge or justice of the peace within 24 hours, or as soon as possible if a justice of the peace is not available within those 24 hours.
Generally speaking, the type of information that will be available at this stage is the police incident report. The police report is a summary of the offence and the accused's criminal record and prior incidents that required police attention or intervention.
The accused's conduct since being detained may also be taken into account if the accused has displayed aggressive or threatening behaviour, or made statements that raised concerns about the safety of victims or witnesses.
In addition, the accused's lawyer or defence counsel on duty in bail court often provide additional information, which is of course relevant to the release of the accused. For example, they will indicate what measures have been sought in order to ensure that the accused will be able to respect the conditions of his or her release.
Depending on the relevant concerns, they will provide information such as the following: whether the accused will have a surety or a person that will help them to comply with their conditions; whether the accused will provide a cash deposit as a bail security; whether the accused will agree to comply with specific conditions such as reporting to police as required or residing at a particular location, just to name a couple.
Therefore, with information coming from both police and defence counsel, there are cases where prosecutors will be satisfied that the accused can be safely released with those conditions. In these instances, the Crown can decide to consent to the release of the accused and not seek to show cause why it is justifiable to detain the accused in pretrial custody.
It should be noted that in certain situations and causes, the law states that the accused shall be detained unless he or she shows cause why detention is not justifiable. These are commonly referred to as reverse onus. We have talked about this at the justice committee on a number of occasions in the last couple of years.
These situations apply in specific cases, such as where the accused is charged with breaching his or her bail, committing another indictable offence, trafficking or smuggling in drugs, and as of May 1 of this year, trafficking or smuggling in weapons as well. Therefore, Bill C-519 would only apply where the prosecutor has decided to consent to the release of an accused charged with a serious personal injury offence.
In conclusion, the bill seeks to ensure that in such cases, all evidence that is relevant to the release of the accused is put on the record before the judge or justice makes the bail release order.
I certainly stand here in the House today to lend my support to this bill and get it to committee. I look forward to having the member present at justice committee, of which I am a member. I know it will be a great day when the member is there and is able to present his thoughts on the bill and any positive changes that may be made to it. I think it is indicative of the House that all parties at least support it at second reading so that Bill C-519 has the opportunity to be presented at committee.