The Supreme Court of Canada is shown in Ottawa on January 19, 2018. The Supreme Court of Canada says making an accused person wait in jail before trial should be the exception, not the rule, in a decision that affirms a key legal safeguard intended to ensure speedy justice. In a 9-0 ruling today, the high court says people accused of crimes are automatically entitled to periodic reviews of their detention under provisions set out in the Criminal Code. In clarifying how the provisions should work, the court says Parliament intended to ensure people awaiting trial have their cases reviewed by a judge at set points in time to consider whether keeping them in jail is justified. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Supreme Court stresses jail should be ‘the exception’ for people awaiting trial

The case started due to Corey Lee James Myers, who was arrested on firearms charges in B.C. three years ago

Making an accused person wait in jail before trial should be the exception, not the rule, the Supreme Court of Canada says in a decision that affirms a key legal safeguard intended to ensure speedy justice.

In a 9-0 ruling Thursday, the high court said people accused of crimes are automatically entitled to periodic reviews of their detention under provisions set out in the Criminal Code.

In clarifying how the provisions should work, the court said Parliament wanted to make certain that people awaiting trial have their cases reviewed by a judge at set points in time to consider whether keeping them in jail is justified.

The decision means jailers must apply to a judge for a hearing on behalf of the accused at the 30-day mark in cases involving lesser offences, and at the 90-day mark in cases involving indictable offences.

The ruling comes three years after the Supreme Court set out a groundbreaking new framework for determining whether a criminal trial has been unreasonably delayed in the drug case of Barrett Richard Jordan.

“Delays in routine bail and detention matters are a manifestation of the culture of complacency denounced by this Court in Jordan, and must be addressed,” Chief Justice Richard Wagner wrote on behalf of the court in Thursday’s decision.

The case landed at the high court as a result of an appeal by Corey Lee James Myers, who was arrested on several firearms charges in British Columbia three years ago.

Though Myers eventually pleaded guilty to reduced charges, he also challenged a decision to keep him in custody pending trial.

At issue was section 525 of the Criminal Code, which outlines procedures for detention review hearings aimed at preventing accused people from languishing in jail before trial.

Although Myers’ appeal is now moot, the Supreme Court exercised its discretion to examine the case because practices concerning detention review hearings vary widely across the country with regard to when they happen, whether they are mandatory and factors to be considered.

READ MORE: Tories seek investigation into leak of Trudeau-JWR clash over top court choice

READ MORE: Former Supreme Court Chief Justice to investigate B.C. legislature affair

In the decision, Wagner wrote that the right to liberty and the presumption of innocence are fundamental tenets of the criminal justice system.

“In the pre-trial context, release — at the earliest opportunity and in the least onerous manner — is the default presumption in Canadian criminal law. Pre-trial detention is the exception, not the rule.”

Being detained prior to trial can have “serious detrimental impacts” on the accused person’s ability to mount a defence and comes at a significant cost to liberty, mental and physical well-being, family life and employment, Wagner wrote.

However, a significant number of people await trial behind bars at any given time in Canada, he noted. In some cases, accused people are held in provincial jails — often in dire, overcrowded conditions — for the entire length of the pre-trial process, which can amount to hundreds of days in custody, he added.

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Man charged with manslaughter in Surrey woman’s death

Duncan Ryan McCabe, 47, is charged with manslaughter in June 2, 2020 death of Karlee May Dixon, 40, of Surrey

South Surrey teen launches non-profit to open opportunities for debate

Lucinda Gullison says the art of debate has many benefits

VIDEO: North Delta crash sends nine to hospital

Two vehicles and a pedestrian were involved in the crash on Scott Road Sunday night (Aug. 9)

South Surrey boy’s lemonade stand raises $670 for baby Lucy on BC Day weekend

Zach Young, 6, wanted to help with purchase of Vancouver infant’s costly drug ‘to help her get better’

Former White Rock mayor, MP shares community connections via YouTube

Gordie Hogg aims to highlight those who’ve impacted South Surrey, White Rock

Canada to match donations to Lebanon relief

Canada is directing all of its aid for this crisis directly to humanitarian organizations, not the Lebanese government

Bear put down after being found on Vancouver Island kitchen counter

Bear trapped and killed near Ucluelet after repeated instances of entering sheds and homes

Who can dismiss the Governor General? A look at protocols and possibilities

The Governor General is appointed by the Queen, on the advice of the prime minister

Second phase of NHL draft lottery set for Monday

Each club eliminated from qualifying round has a 12.5 per cent shot at the No. 1 pick

University of Victoria, rowing coach sued over alleged ‘fat shaming’ and verbal abuse

Lawsuit says Barney Williams subjected coxswain Lily Copeland to offensive and belittling language

NHL playoffs: Canucks to meet St. Louis Blues in Round 1

Vancouver takes on defending champs beginning Wednesday

Fraser Valley Bandits fall to Edmonton in CEBL final

Bandits lose 90-73 to Stingers in Sunday’s Summer Series final

1 year since a B.C. teen died in a skate park, his family still waiting for charges

Carson Crimeni’s final moments were broadcast on social media

Simon Cowell breaks his back falling from electric bike

Incident happened at his home in California

Most Read

l -->