The Canadian Criminal Justice System is, for the most part, reflective of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and various Supreme Court of Canada case-law. Everyone who finds themselves on the opposing end of the Criminal Justice System is entitled to certain protections every step of the way, beginning even before the arrest; laws protect us from unreasonable investigative techniques, guarantee certain rights at point of arrest, and provide us with the right to counsel. The bail court departs from the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ standard in that the crown only needs to prove on a balance of probabilities (Kellough, 1996, p. 175) in order to take away a person’s freedom. It is for this reason I decided to limit the scope of my observations to the bail court. What I found is a systemic evidence of a two-tier justice system. In this essay, I will outline the roles of the 'regular players' of the bail court and demonstrate how the current bail process essentially transforms the Canadian Criminal Justice System into a two-tier system where the affluent and powerful are able to receive preferential treatment over the poor.
I attended the Bail court on Monday, February 22 at the Ontario Court of Justice in Scarborough. After some searching, I found the court assignment sheet posted outside a clerk's office. It had listed each courtroom number and what they were assigned to hold. Courtroom 412 was bail, courtroom 406 was guilty pleas, and 407 was first appearance. When I approached courtroom 412, I saw the crown counsel have a brief conversation with a colleague. They were critical of the Judge being late – the court was scheduled to reconvene at 2pm. She sarcastically stated that 'he must need a longer lunch break because it must be tough to make three decisions a day'.
When the court was finally in session, the Crown called on the first defendant, and duty counsel informed her that they have been moved to courtroom 406. This dialogue repeated itself several times over the next 30 minutes with most of the defendants having been moved to courtroom 406. At this point, the crown requested that a Judge call a 10 minute recess so that she could locate the paperwork for one of the contested release cases, and the Judge obliged.
During the recess, I asked the duty counsel why so many defendants had decided to change their plea to guilty. She let me know that after speaking with her about the prospect of receiving a lenient sentence, she convinced the defendants to plead guilty to a lesser charge and avoid potential detainment order.
The court reconvened, and the crown called the next person, Tim. B. Tim, a young white male, was already out on bail pending his charge of assaulting his ex-girlfriend. The Crown stated that this was a reverse-onus because he was charged with failure to appear three times. The duty counsel informed that Tim voluntarily turned himself in earlier in the morning when he found out about the charges, and...