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Bail under scrutiny

Editorial Obiter

The ticking clock on court delays imposed by Jordan continues to run, with a range of results.

Law Times reports that the Ontario Court of Justice launched a pilot project earlier this month to see whether having judges conduct bail hearings could reduce delays in the criminal justice system. Normally, it is justices of the peace who hear bail proceedings — a practice that has drawn the ire of some critics who feel this should be handled only by lawyers.

But regardless of who handles the proceedings or their educational qualifications, the root of delays arguably stems from a variety of factors. In the ruling in Jordan, the SCC noted that “the elements to be considered [in determining inherent time requirements] are the amounts of time reasonably required in processing the charge, retaining counsel, applying for bail, completing police and administration paperwork, making disclosure, dealing with pre-trial applications, preparing for and arguing the preliminary inquiry and/or the trial, and trying a case similar in the nature to the one before the court.”

Many point to bail courts as one source of delays and where system clogging starts. For a problem so complex, creative solutions are required. Part of the change will be ensuring more uniform approaches from courtroom to courtroom in how bail provisions are applied.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court of Canada has been clear that “bail provisions are federal law and must be applied consistently and fairly in all provinces and territories,” in Antic

“The right not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause is an essential element of an enlightened criminal justice system,” according to the ruling.

Striving for enlightment is a worthy pursuit.            

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An Ontario judge is once again calling on the provincial government to fix long waits at assessment offices. Do you think the province needs to step up its efforts to address these delays?