More than 70 per cent of people in jails awaiting bail or trial, report says

Most in jail await bail, trial

A new report says the crisis in Canada's bail system has worsened over the last decade, with more people in pre-trial custody and some spending weeks in detention before being released.

A report released today by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association says that by 2021-2022, the proportion of people in provincial and territorial jails who were awaiting bail or trial was more than 70 per cent – and nearly 79 per cent in Ontario.

That's compared with just over 54 per cent in 2014, when the association released its initial report on the issue.

The report says that while there are "clear timeframes" in the Criminal Code to ensure people don't "languish in pre-trial custody," as well as guidance from the Supreme Court of Canada on the matter, the ongoing strain on the court system contributes to major delays in the bail process.

The association says its research shows that on any given day, most cases in bail court are adjourned, often because the court ran out of time.

One of the report's authors told a news conference this morning that one possible step to consider would be encouraging courts to stay open until all matters for the day have been heard to completion.

"We need to change the culture of bail court decision making," said Nicole Myers, an associate professor of sociology at Queen's University.

"At its core, we must remember that innocent people are being jailed. Many of these folks are not subsequently found guilty of the offenses it's alleged that they've committed," she said.  "So the reality is that people are being punished, they are serving what amounts to a sentence prior to and often in the absence of conviction." 

Across Canada, 51 per cent of cases end with all charges withdrawn, meaning the accused is not found guilty of the alleged crime, she noted.


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