Delays for bail hearings in Thunder Bay, Ont., concern for criminal defence lawyers
Accused should have access to contested bail hearing within 3 days under Criminal Code
It should only take three days - but for some who faces charges in the justice system in Thunder Bay, Ont., it could take up to a week to schedule a contested bail hearing.
A lack of bail 'slots', at times, are part of the reason for the delays. In the city, contested bail hearings are only heard three days a week, with some additional 'as-needed' spaces available on Mondays and Thursdays.
The lack of slots means an accused person could sit in custody for up to a week, when their matter could be resolved - and potentially allowing the person to be out of custody - within three days. Brindley said the Criminal Code specifically states a contested bail hearing must be held within three days of its request.
"People who are charged with a crime have not been convicted of anything," said Kate Brindley, a criminal defence lawyer with Atwood Labine LLP.
"They're human beings, they're real people. People charged with crimes come from all walks of life and all backgrounds. It's something that can affect anybody, and a person in anyone's family."
Brindley said those who are held in custody may have a number of personal matters that could need immediate attention, and cannot be handled while behind bars.
She said it could include childcare, feeding pets, attending a medical appointment, or caring for an elderly parent.
"Every individual who has been charged with a crime has not been convicted of that crime, and is presumed to be innocent, and has a constitutional right to reasonable bail."
"The consequences to that individual I think are clear, but on the whole, there are additional consequences in terms of overcrowding at the jail, and this can touch anybody or anybody's family."
Brindley said while she did not have specific figures, the lack of bail slots for contested bail hearings is a growing issue at the courthouse.
She said stakeholders at the courthouse are aware of the issue, and take it seriously. However more resources or a change in scheduling may be necessary to help alleviate some of the delays.
The Ministry of the Attorney General was unable to provide a specific comment for this story.