There has been an upsurge in crime in Toronto and other cities. City leaders including lawmakers and law enforcement have been tempted to take a knee jerk approach to the perceived perpetrators or those suspects who have been arrested and some not even charged. Lawmen have been pressuring prosecutors to adopt a lock up and throw away the key mentality. It sounds good as a band aid but is this approach the real solution to the problem? We are inclined to think otherwise.
Bandage Cannot Cure Cancer
Locking up suspects is not convictions. It is just the first step. A solid air tight case has to be built. Under Canadian law a suspect is considered innocent until proven otherwise. So a suspect has to be treated as a suspect and not otherwise. So much can go wrong in a court case. Witnesses have to be convinced to cooperate with the prosecution. They have to be credible and DNA and any other piece(s) of evidence must be in tact.
To punish suspects on shaky or no evidence can be counter productive. This could lead to resentment if not bitterness. The root causes of this increased violence needs to be carefully examined. In Toronto in particular, shootings are up. There have been 34 deaths year to date and over 200 shootings … a significant increase over 2018.
Why the upsurge in Violence?
Youth Unemployment …
There are many reasons for this violence, but unmistakably there is the issue of youth unemployment. Most of the poorer youths are from the minority sectors … mainly Black and Hispanic communities and First Nation Community … minorities in Canada feel marginalized. Many are first generation migrants and some second generation as well. They are profiled by police, targeted and are usually unemployed or underemployed. They need resources. The moneyed class are fine. They have strong support so they do not have to hustle to survive.
As the crisis deepens the authorities recruit more police to try to arrest themselves out of the problem. This is like putting band aid or bandage over cancer. The next strategy is that which was mentioned above and this to attempt to restrict bail or outright deny bail even to suspects who are qualified to get bail. To deny a suspect their freedom is not a joke matter. Superior courts frown on such behaviour especially if an habeas corpus application has been filed. Habeas Corpus is an application for freedom to a higher court.
What are the conditions for Bail?
The main conditions for bail are 1) Is the suspect a flight risk? 2) Does suspect or accused has a fix place of residence? 3) seriousness of the alleged crime 4) Will the suspect/accused interfere or is a threat to witnesses or complainant like say in a rape case. 5) If a bond (say cash) has to be put up as security … can that condition be met. Those are the main conditions which must be met to secure bail. These conditions vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Also there can be reporting conditions and travel restrictions like surrendering of travel documents say a passport etc. Basically these are the considerations a judge has to take into account when deciding on whether to grant bail to a suspect or not.
Bail is not a privilege … it is a right
We hope the authorities will attack the root causes of the crime problem plaguing mainly Toronto and elsewhere in Canada and not the symptoms. Some of these problems exist in Jamaica and elsewhere. What is your perspective? This is ours.
Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie has an interest in law and is an International journalist & National Political Correspondent