that sentences are too light and defendants too frequently granted bail
followed widespread media coverage of a wave of shootings in
this summer, including one in which a
four-year-old boy was wounded.
Toronto police Chief Bill Blair placed the blame on
justices of the peace in highlighting the case of Damian McBean, a 23-year-old
man who was granted bail on weapon possession charges in May, only to be
arrested with a similar offence last month.
is a good example of what is going on with the system," said Blair to local
media, as he described McBean's bail conditions as "absurd."
criticisms were echoed by Toronto Mayor David Miller, who said the McBean case
was "not acceptable" and appeared to suggest that bail should never be granted
in a gun possession case.
thought David Miller had more common sense than that," responded defence lawyer
David Bayliss, who represents McBean. "Why don't we just throw out the Charter
of Rights in Toronto?"
was granted bail because he had no criminal record or outstanding charges, said
Bayliss. The terms of the bail included virtual house arrest, with the accused
allowed to leave home only with his surety. The Crown did not seek a review of
the bail, and McBean was already arrested and in a police car when three
co-defendants are alleged to have shot at police.
is no context to any of this. The treatment of gun offences in Toronto has always been treated seriously by
Crowns and judges," said Bayliss, who suggested that police, politicians, and
the media are all feeding off each other to "whip the public into a frenzy."
a [gun] crime deserves a significant sentence, the Crown will get it," said
Katrina Mulligan, a director of the Ontario Criminal Lawyers Association.
is already understandably difficult for a defendant to be released on bail
after being charged with a gun offence, said Mulligan.
court is automatically nervous," she added.
who was a civil litigation lawyer before entering municipal politics, said he
for a denial of bail in every gun-related crime.
course there is a presumption of innocence. But it should be very rare to get
bail," Miller told Law Times.
of Sept. 8, there were 51 homicides in Toronto
this year. In each of the past five years there were 60 to 62 murders. So far,
there have been 33 shooting deaths, up significantly from last year. Both
totals, however, are lower than 1991, when there were a record 86 murders and
38 shooting deaths.
alarming difference this year is an increase in random shootings that occurred,
"only because someone had a gun," said Miller.
is no reason for anyone to have a gun in Toronto,"
said the Mayor, who suggested the "entire" justice system must treat
"possession of a handgun the same way you would as if someone had used it."
also called on Crown attorneys to proceed "by way of indictment, instead of
summary conviction" for gun offences.
Ministry of the Attorney General is now preparing "a sentencing package of
leading cases that will include compelling evidence of the impact of gun crimes
in the community," said ministry spokesman Brendan Crawley. He said the plan to
develop community-impact statements was sparked in part, by comments made by
the Court of Appeal recently in R v. Danvers.
Rondinelli, a Toronto defence lawyer who also
teaches at Osgoode Hall Law School, said this strategy has been used frequently
in the United States
in federal gang and drug prosecutions.
statements may very well provide communities with a sense of satisfaction in
playing a role in the administration of criminal justice. My fear, however, is
that they may introduce raw emotion into the process, a judicial process with
rules and principles specifically established to guard against partially
emotional decisions," said Rondinelli.
also noted that in Danvers,
the Court of Appeal reduced the period of parole ineligibility for a defendant
convicted of a gun murder.
reaffirms the general principle of sentencing that the interests of the state
must be balanced with those of the accused. Danvers confirms that the ministry's proposed
sentencing package cannot be used as a just-add-water solution to sentencing,"