Recentcomments by politicians and police that the courts are not treating gun crimesseriously, especially in
that sentences are too light and defendants too frequently granted bail
followed widespread media coverage of a wave of shootings in
Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant responded with a "four-point plan." It included "blitz" inspections of gun shops, a weapons amnesty program, improving the witness protection program, and a stated intention to use "community-impact statements" at sentencing hearings.
"This 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."
The 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
McBean 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
"If a [gun] crime deserves a significant sentence, the Crown will get it," said Katrina Mulligan, a director of the Ontario Criminal Lawyers Association.
It is already understandably difficult for a defendant to be released on bail after being charged with a gun offence, said Mulligan.
"The court is automatically nervous," she added.
Miller, who was a civil litigation lawyer before entering municipal politics, said he was not
calling for a denial of bail in every gun-related crime.
"Of 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
An 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
He 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.
"Community-impact 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