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Commentary: Bail system must strike reasonable balance

If criminals are taking advantage of the system at the expense of public security, then changes must be made

With Canada’s provincial premiers calling on the federal government to do more to ensure the country’s bail system is in line with overall public safety, particularly for police and other first responders, the time has come for meaningful review.

And if that review finds that concrete changes are needed, then those changes should be made without undue delay.

Impacting the handling of criminal cases across Canada, including in rural communities such those here in central Alberta, the bail system must necessarily strike a fair balance between the rights of accused persons and the need for the public to be protected.

Whether the Trudeau government is prepared to reform the bail system in light of several recent high profile cases where accused persons have been released on bail only to allegedly commit subsequent horrific crimes remains to be seen.

What is known is that if criminals are taking advantage of the system at the expense of public security, then changes must be made, regardless of provincial or federal politics.

In a letter recently sent to the prime minister, Canada’s 13 premiers called for immediate action to address what they contend is a bail system in dire need of reform.

“The justice system fundamentally needs to keep anyone who poses a threat to public safety off the streets,” the letter states. “And this starts with meaningful changes to the Criminal Code, an area solely within the federal government's jurisdiction.”

The Canadian Police Association is also calling for bail system reform.

“There are a small number of prolific and violent offenders who continue to present a danger to society when released, and we need to find common-sense reforms that will address those cases,” said association president Tom Stamatakis.

Canada should have a bail system that allows qualified accused persons to be released pending the outcome of their cases. That said, the system must also ensure the public-at-large is at all times protected and shielded from prolific and violent criminals.

Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan.

Dan Singleton

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