The Teenage Swarming Murders – Will They Get Bail?
Blog by Arun S. Maini
In a crime that made headlines around the world, eight teen girls, between the ages of 13 and 16, were charged with the murder of a man outside a homeless shelter in downtown Toronto. The crime, which shocked the city, has raised issues about public safety, the bail system and the privacy rights of youths charged with the most serious of crimes.
Our criminal lawyer, Arun Maini, was recently interviewed on CBC television about this case. You can see these interviews here.
Why would any of the girls charged in this swarming attack be released on bail?
The Charter of Rights guarantees certain protections to every individual. The ones that apply in this case are:
- The right to life, liberty and security of the person;
- The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty;
- The right not to be denied bail without just cause.
Because each person charged is presumed innocent until proven guilty, they are entitled to ask the court for a chance to keep their liberty by way of a bail release until the issue of their guilt or innocence has been decided in court.
Even in the most serious cases, such as murder, a person has the right to apply for bail. This does not mean that they will necessarily be granted bail, but they have a right to try.
How does the bail process work?
There are three issues that the court must determine before releasing someone on bail:
- If released, will the defendant show up in court? This is known as the primary ground;
- If released, will the defendant commit further offences while on bail? This is known as the secondary ground;
- How would the defendant’s release affect confidence in the administration of justice? This is known as the tertiary ground.
In this case, the primary ground, making sure that the defendants show up in court, each youth will have to show that they would be supervised upon release by family or a social worker who would ensure that they show up for court.
In order to determine the secondary ground, whether the youth poses the risk of committing criminal offences while on bail, the bail court will examine whether the youth has a criminal record; mental health or addiction issues which might pose a greater risk to the public. Restrictions on their liberty, such as a curfew or strict supervision while outside of their residence, will help to ensure that the youth does not have the ability to commit crimes while on bail.
For the tertiary ground, the court must determine whether the release of the youth on bail would undermine the confidence of the public in the administration of justice. This is a more complicated factor, which has to do with whether the public, if properly informed about the principles of justice that apply in the case, would feel that justice is being served by releasing the youth pending an eventual decision about whether she is guilty or innocent.
Politicians and victims’ families often decry the release on bail of a defendant charged with a serious crime. In an ideal world, the perpetrator of a serious crime would be immediately punished. However, to properly administer justice, a process must take place to determine whether the individual arrested is actually guilty or not. This takes time and care to ensure that the decision is the correct one, and that the process is a fair one. Without a process that is fair and transparent , the government could arbitrarily take away someone’s liberty by charging and punishing them for a crime, whether they committed it or not. A fair and transparent process that respects the fundamental rights set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is essential to maintaining confidence in the administration of justice.
Will the girls charged with these offences be released on bail?
There is every reason to believe that each of these girls will have an opportunity to seek release on bail. There are several reasons for this:
- The crime took place in a group which “swarmed” through the downtown core. The risk of such a crime occurring if released on bail is low, since the defendants will not be permitted to have any contact with each other;
- Each defendant released on bail will be closely supervised to ensure that they respect the bail conditions and do not commit any offences while on release;
- Unless the defendant has a serious criminal record or mental health or addiction issues, she will be able and willing to follow the rules of release, knowing that the alternative is to spend the time until trial in jail;
- Given that the defendants are young women, some are indeed very young, a bail release can be fashioned that addresses any of the risks and concerns, and which will maintain the public’s confidence in the justice system.
What type of bail conditions can one expect in this case?
Any bail will have strict conditions to ensure that the defendants are supervised when they are out of their residence; that they not meet with or communicate with any of the co-defendants; and that they engage in pro-social activities, especially school.
Obviously, each will have a ban on possessing any weapons. Each will have to be supervised by a “surety”, who is a person willing to promise to the court that they will supervise the youth closely while she is on bail. The surety is usually a close family member such as a parent, who has a close relationship with the youth and who the youth is likely to listen to. To give some additional strength to the surety’s promise to the court, they often have to pledge assets (such as a house or car) or show proof of income. The court will assign a monetary value to that pledge. That means, for example, that if the bail is set at $5,000, the surety is liable to pay that amount to the court should they fail to properly supervise the youth.
Arun S. Maini at the Defence Group is very experienced with bail hearings and youth court. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges and need the advice of an experienced and skilled lawyer to help you through the legal process, call The Defence Group for a free consultation at 877-295-2830 or email us through the Contact Us link throughout our website.
Arun S. Maini is a criminal lawyer and former prosecutor with over 25 years of experience