'The justice system failed': Fort McMurray woman flees home after alleged abuser released on bail

A Fort McMurray woman says the justice system failed her after she was forced to flee her home because the man she says abused and fired a gun at her was released on bail.

Warning: This story contains content about domestic violence

Kira McGee says she doesn't feel safe after the man accused of assaulting her was released on bail. (Peter Evans/CBC)

A Fort McMurray woman says the justice system failed her after she was forced to flee her home because the man charged with assaulting and firing a gun at her was released on bail.

Kira McGee, 18, said she used to do everything with her ex-boyfriend Dayton Davis, 20. They dated for about a year and a half, but McGee said the relationship fell apart.

McGee alleges she was physically abused, and a particularly vicious attack happened this September.

"He bit my face and left three scars on my face. And he choked me and banged my head against the floor," she said.

Kira McGee sustained injuries to her face. (Kira McGee)

She broke up with Davis, but didn't immediately report the alleged attack to police.

"I was scared that he was going to come after me," she said. "After I kind of let it sink in and I had time to think about it, I was like: 'If I don't tell anyone what's happening to me or what happened, this could keep happening.'"

So she contacted RCMP and reported the abuse.

A court document says Davis was charged with three counts of assaulting McGee and one count of unlawfully confining her. The charges are connected to incidents between March 1 and Sept. 16 of this year.

But the situation escalated when he was released on bail, McGee said.

'I see his face and a barrel of a gun'

In the early morning of Oct. 26, McGee was driving a friend around the city when a white truck pulled up beside them, driven by Davis, she said.

"I unroll the window and I see his face and a barrel of a gun. So I look out the window and I'm like, 'Do it,'" McGee said, noting she didn't actually want Davis to shoot her.

"I wanted him to know that I wasn't scared of him."

McGee alleges her ex fired a shot that didn't hit her, then drove away.

Wood Buffalo RCMP issued a news release following the incident, saying police responded at 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 26 after a firearm was discharged from a vehicle. Davis and another man were charged.

"One of the accused males leaned out of a moving vehicle and discharged a firearm at another vehicle with two people inside," the release says.

A court document says Davis was charged with:

  • Two counts of discharging a firearm with intent to endanger life
  • Two counts of pointing a firearm
  • Two counts of careless use/storage of a firearm
  • Carrying a weapon for a dangerous purpose
  • Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle
  • Failure to comply with conditions of an undertaking: abstain from communicating with McGee and from going to her residence and workplace

The document names McGee and the friend she was driving with as the alleged victims. Davis was later released on $2,000 bail.

None of the allegations have been proven in court. Davis did not respond to requests for comment.

'Risking my daughter's life was worth $2,000'

RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Ron Bumbry said police give victims of violence a heads-up when the accused is being released.

"In these types of situations, the safety of individuals that are involved, including the victims, is our No. 1 priority," he said. "They are notified when these types of things do occur and the person is released back into the public."

RCMP opposed Davis's release, Bumbry said, as they often do for cases that involve a firearm or "person offences" like assault.

"With this particular investigation as well as others, we do have an opportunity to present to the judge or justice [at the] judicial hearing if we believe that we have charges that support opposition in regards to release — i.e. that the person could ... cause potential harm to others if released," he said, noting past criminal records might also come into play.

What's stopping him from doing it again?- Kira McGee

McGee said she was shocked when police told her Davis was getting out on bail again. While he wasn't charged with attempted murder, McGee said she thinks he was trying to kill her.

"If he's already hunted me down and tried to kill me once, what's stopping him from doing it again?" she said. "If you're going to shoot at someone and try and take their life ... then you should be put in prison."

Daniel McGee, Kira McGee's father, feels his daughter's safety hasn't been taken seriously. (Peter Evans/CBC)

McGee's father, Daniel McGee, said he understands why Davis was granted bail after the initial charges were laid. But he said he's furious Davis was released a second time, putting his daughter in danger.

"For the life of me, I can't understand why the justice of the peace decided that … risking my daughter's life was worth $2,000. It infuriates me. It's outrageous," he said.

The justice system failed my daughter.- Daniel McGee, father

"It should be that they're in jail until this plays out in court. And that's kind of where I think the justice system failed my daughter."

He fled Fort McMurray with his daughter, and says they don't think it will be safe for her to come home until her alleged abuser is behind bars.

Several conditions have been placed on Davis' bail, Bumbry said. The conditions include orders to not contact the alleged victims, to stay away from the alleged victims' residence, and to not own or carry a weapon.

The gun police referenced in the firearm incident has not been recovered, Bumbry said.

McGee said she's not convinced strict bail conditions will keep her safe.

"He had conditions before," she said. "So what's to stop him from breaching the conditions he now has?"

Presumed innocence

Daniel said he shared his concerns with Alberta Justice in an email.

In an emailed statement to CBC, Katherine Thompson, spokesperson for the justice department, said: "Final decisions regarding bail are ultimately made by the courts, which are independent from government." 

Two Edmonton lawyers say it's common for people accused of domestic violence to be released on bail.

Criminal defence lawyer Curtis Steeves said there's a presumption of release for people accused of a crime.

"They're presumed to be innocent. And that's, you know, sort of the foundational reason why people get released even when there's serious allegations," Steeves said.

He said judges consider the release plan of the accused, which might have conditions that help ensure potential victims of crime are protected.

We don't have a perfect system and we can't account for every action by every individual.- Bob  Aloneissi , defence lawyer

Defence lawyer Bob Aloneissi has worked on hundreds of domestic violence cases over his 30-year career.

Like Steeves, he highlighted the presumption of innocence, and added there are three grounds for refusing bail, despite that presumption.
Defence lawyer Bob Aloneissi says one of the guiding principles for granting bail is the presumption of innocence. (Liberty Law)

People could be held in custody if they're unlikely to appear in court, if it's not in the public interest to release them, or if it's likely they'll commit additional offences.

The justice system is designed to protect people — complainants and the accused, Aloneissi said.

"We don't have a perfect system and we can't account for every action by every individual," he said. "We can say that probably works in 95 per cent of cases where there's no further incident of abuse, particularly during the period of bail and hopefully beyond that."

Daniel McGee said he thinks his daughter isn't being helped by the justice system.

"She's had to leave the city in fear of her safety. And I'm just wondering how that is any way to treat a victim in this day and age," he said. "I think it's unfair. I think the justice system has failed."

About the Author

Anna McMillan

Journalist

Anna McMillan is a reporter, web writer and associate TV producer at CBC Edmonton. anna.mcmillan@cbc.ca