Pilot project aims to cut time youth spend in custody waiting for bail

A pilot project should keep young Manitobans in trouble with the law from spending an extra day — or more — in custody to process what can be minor charges.

Young people sometimes arrested on charges that don't require jail time, such as petty theft or vandalism

The Manitoba Youth Centre is working with the provincial court system to speed up the bail hearing process. (Google Street View)

A pilot project at the Manitoba Youth Centre should keep young Manitobans in trouble with the law from spending an extra day — or more — in custody to process what can be minor charges.

As of Aug. 8, if a young person is arrested and detained in custody, all outstanding charges will automatically be brought forward during the youth's first court appearance. Currently, the Crown asks for an extra day to add outstanding charges — a day the youth has to spend in custody.

The one day needed for an administrative step could stretch to four for youth arrested on a Friday, criminal defence lawyer Lisa Labossiere said.

The extra time in custody frustrates for both lawyers and their clients, especially when a youth has been arrested for a charge that doesn't require jail time as a consequence, such as petty theft or vandalism, she said.

The pilot project will also help people under CFS care stay safe, said Labossiere, who also works with Child and Family Services agencies across Manitoba.

​"If a youth is placed at at treatment centre or a group home and they were in custody for several days, they'd lose their placements," she said. "They'd close the beds that the youth were staying in and another youth would inevitably come in.

"So this will eliminate that entirely and the youth might be able to keep their placement."

The only challenge Labossiere sees is pushing lawyers to appear in bail court the first day their client is eligible for release. But she predicts that won't be a big issue.

"I think people are pretty dedicated, particularly when it comes to youth, to being proactive and securing a release as soon as possible," she said.

The notice from the provincial court of Manitoba said the results of the pilot project will be monitored and assessed after several months to determine its effectiveness.