Reasonable Bail

September 6, 2013

The presumption of innocence is the golden thread that runs thought the criminal justice system.  When a person is accused of a criminal offence they are presumed to be innocent.  The presumption of innocence is a protective robe that an accused person wears until they are found guilty.  It is the Crown who must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; it is the state who must remove the robe of innocence.

The right to reasonable bail is a constitutional right.  When one is released on bail it must be the least restrictive form of release possible.  Every time an accused person is denied reasonable bail a person presumed to be innocent is sent to jail.

It is not shocking given the partisan and ideological positions taken on criminal justice by the conservative party that the jail population is at an all time high.  It should be shocking that the majority of these inmates are presumed innocent.  There are more people in custody waiting for a trial then there are people serving a sentence. 

This is all occurring when crime rates are at an all time low. 

It is in this context that the John Howard Society has release a report on Reasonable Bail.  The content of the report is sadly not shocking.  

Problems in the bail system include: the miss-use of police and crown discretion to release, the over reliance on sureties, the imposition of harsh and punitive conditions (such as house arrest, and curfews,) delays in obtaining a bail hearing, and lengthy and overly complex hearings.   

Sadly these are issues that I encounter on a daily basis.  The culture of risk aversion and institutional inertia must be dealt with swiftly; problems with the bail system have wide ranging and lasting impacts on our justice system.

The John Howard Society should be commended for shedding light on the problem of reasonable bail.  

The presumption of innocence is hollow indeed when it is enjoyed from an over crowded prison cell.