Lawyers Financial

Some thoughts on bail in Toronto

By John Fennel

Anyone who knows anything about bail in Toronto knows that delays are the rule. Nevertheless, Mayor John Tory recently blamed fictional speedy releases on bail for some of the recent gun violence in Toronto: “we can’t have people getting out on bail 20 minutes after they’re arrested for using a gun.” In Toronto, nobody gets out on bail in 20 minutes for jaywalking, let alone a gun crime. Nevertheless, these fictions about bail continue to exist.

Someone who should know something about bail recently published a novel with a vignette as absurd as Tory’s statement. In what will hopefully be her last stab at crime fiction, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada told the tale of a murder client being released on bail – his own recognizance no less – on his first day in court. Perhaps Full Disclosure was Tory’s bedtime reading on June 30, 2018.

Unfortunately, most people learn about the criminal justice system through fiction. Anybody who has ever worked a job depicted in fiction – police, doctor, teacher, home renovator, dishwasher, or chef – knows that television, movies, or novels about their profession share only a faint resemblance to reality. Courtroom dramas are no different.

If you are an accused and have some spare time on a weekday, drop by a courthouse and watch what happens. If you are going to be a surety and have extra time, attend a bail hearing to see the horrible and intrusive questions typically asked on cross-examination. And for everyone else, courthouses offer an education fiction cannot provide: what actually happens. Maybe our mayor will drop by courtroom 101 at Old City Hall and watch a bail hearing.

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