The Supreme Court of Canada is shown in Ottawa on January 19, 2018. The Supreme Court of Canada says making an accused person wait in jail before trial should be the exception, not the rule, in a decision that affirms a key legal safeguard intended to ensure speedy justice. In a 9-0 ruling today, the high court says people accused of crimes are automatically entitled to periodic reviews of their detention under provisions set out in the Criminal Code. In clarifying how the provisions should work, the court says Parliament intended to ensure people awaiting trial have their cases reviewed by a judge at set points in time to consider whether keeping them in jail is justified. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Supreme Court stresses jail should be ‘the exception’ for people awaiting trial

The case started due to Corey Lee James Myers, who was arrested on firearms charges in B.C. three years ago

Making an accused person wait in jail before trial should be the exception, not the rule, the Supreme Court of Canada says in a decision that affirms a key legal safeguard intended to ensure speedy justice.

In a 9-0 ruling Thursday, the high court said people accused of crimes are automatically entitled to periodic reviews of their detention under provisions set out in the Criminal Code.

In clarifying how the provisions should work, the court said Parliament wanted to make certain that people awaiting trial have their cases reviewed by a judge at set points in time to consider whether keeping them in jail is justified.

The decision means jailers must apply to a judge for a hearing on behalf of the accused at the 30-day mark in cases involving lesser offences, and at the 90-day mark in cases involving indictable offences.

The ruling comes three years after the Supreme Court set out a groundbreaking new framework for determining whether a criminal trial has been unreasonably delayed in the drug case of Barrett Richard Jordan.

“Delays in routine bail and detention matters are a manifestation of the culture of complacency denounced by this Court in Jordan, and must be addressed,” Chief Justice Richard Wagner wrote on behalf of the court in Thursday’s decision.

The case landed at the high court as a result of an appeal by Corey Lee James Myers, who was arrested on several firearms charges in British Columbia three years ago.

Though Myers eventually pleaded guilty to reduced charges, he also challenged a decision to keep him in custody pending trial.

At issue was section 525 of the Criminal Code, which outlines procedures for detention review hearings aimed at preventing accused people from languishing in jail before trial.

Although Myers’ appeal is now moot, the Supreme Court exercised its discretion to examine the case because practices concerning detention review hearings vary widely across the country with regard to when they happen, whether they are mandatory and factors to be considered.

READ MORE: Tories seek investigation into leak of Trudeau-JWR clash over top court choice

READ MORE: Former Supreme Court Chief Justice to investigate B.C. legislature affair

In the decision, Wagner wrote that the right to liberty and the presumption of innocence are fundamental tenets of the criminal justice system.

“In the pre-trial context, release — at the earliest opportunity and in the least onerous manner — is the default presumption in Canadian criminal law. Pre-trial detention is the exception, not the rule.”

Being detained prior to trial can have “serious detrimental impacts” on the accused person’s ability to mount a defence and comes at a significant cost to liberty, mental and physical well-being, family life and employment, Wagner wrote.

However, a significant number of people await trial behind bars at any given time in Canada, he noted. In some cases, accused people are held in provincial jails — often in dire, overcrowded conditions — for the entire length of the pre-trial process, which can amount to hundreds of days in custody, he added.

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Two dogs rescued from Colwood house fire

Black Labrador retriever rescued and revived by West Shore crews

UVic partners with harm reduction groups to run a drug checking pilot project

The three-year pilot will allow people to test their drugs for fatal ingredients like fentanyl

Public asked to give feedback on proposed protection measures for southern resident orcas

Measures focus on key threats related to contaminants, lack of prey, noise or physical disturbance

Highway 1 just south of Malahat Drive to see lane expansion

Langford stretch between Leigh Road and Westshore Parkway will see additional lane and median

Province announces more improvements for Highway 14

$85-million project made possible through federal funding support

WATCH: Police call Happy Valley shooting an ‘isolated and targeted’ incident

One person in custody, another fled following crash on Kelly Road

Wanted by Crime Stoppers

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you think the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris should be rebuilt?

Images of one of the word’s most iconic landmarks were seared into… Continue reading

Woe, Canada: Bruins down Maple Leafs 5-1 in Game 7

No Canadian teams left in Stanley Cup playoffs

B.C. men challenge constitutionality of Canada’s secret no-fly list

Parvkar Singh Dulai says he received a “denial of boarding” notification under the no-fly program last May 17

Murder on B.C. property didn’t need to be disclosed before sale, court rules

Buyer had tried to break contract after learning a man with ties to crime had been murdered there

B.C.’s largest Vaisakhi festival target of threatening Facebook post: Surrey RCMP

Police say they are investigating the posts on Facebook, after local MLA forwarded screenshots

Pug life: B.C. town boasts waggish list of dog names

Freedom-of-information request lists most ‘pupular’ dog names registered in White Rock

Most Read