The application of mental health in the context of bail reviews was recently clarified in a recent decision from the Supreme Court of Canada in Regina v. Myers, 2019 SCC 18. The SCC confirmed animating and cardinal principle right out of the gate at paragraph 1:
“The right to liberty and the presumption of innocence are fundamental tenets of our 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.”
Those prefatory remarks permeate the entirety of the decision. In my view this decision addressed a critical gap in the jurisprudence.The query before the Court was determine the correct approach to a detention review under s. 525of the Criminal Code of Canada (the “Code”); and to explain the place of such a review within the larger context of pre-trial custody in Canada. The Court made the following salient points.
It emphasised that Judges and justices at bail hearings should always give very careful consideration to release plans that involve supervised treatment for individuals with substance abuse and mental health issues. Of importance, it stressed at paragraph 67 of the decision that the release into treatment with appropriate conditions will often adequately address any risk, and “we must not lose sight of the fact that pre-trial detention is a measure of last resort”. It noted that Parliament intended the s.525 review provisions to be a safeguard; and that Section 525 bail reviews are not restricted to cases in which there has been an unreasonable delay in bringing the accused to trial, although delay can be relevant to the court’s review.
The onus to apply for a s.525 review is on the prosecution, and accordingly an accused person or their defence counsel need not request a hearing. Detained persons are are entitled to a s.525 hearing. This applies even if they did not have an initial bail hearing. In such cases, the review judge must apply the “ladder principle” (see ReginaAntic, [2017 SCC 27); and determine the issue of bail de novo.
At the review hearing, the task of the judge must centre on the issue of whether “…the continued detention of the accused in custody justified within the meaning of s. 515(10) [the detention provisions]?” In this connection, the hearing is a review of the detention itself, not of any order made in a lower court, although errors in detention orders may justify revisiting the order. With great clarity, Court remarked at paragraph 63:
At the hearing, unreasonable delay is not a threshold that must be met before reviewing the detention of the accused. The overarching question is only whether the continued detention of the accused in custody is justified within the meaning of 515(10). In determining whether the detention of the accused is still justified, the reviewing judge may consider any new evidence or change in the circumstances of the accused, the impact of the passage of time and any unreasonable delay on the proportionality of the detention, and the rationale offered for the original detention order, if one was made. If there was no initial bail hearing, the s. 525 judge is responsible for conducting one, taking into account the time the accused has already spent in pre-trial custody. Ultimately, s. 525 requires a reviewing judge to provide accused persons with reasons why their continued detention is — or is not —justified. Finally, the judge should make use of his or her discretion under ss. 525(9) and 526 to give directions for expediting the trial and related proceedings where it is appropriate to do so. Directions should be given with a view to mitigating the risk of unconstitutional delay and expediting the trials of accused persons who are subject to lengthy pre-trial detention.
In terms of the reception of the evidence, the court may receive any evidence that is credible or trustworthy, unless it existed at the time of the initial bail hearing and is barred by the “due diligence” and “relevance” criteria. And finally, the reviewing judge must give directions to expedite the trial of persons in custody, and to ensure the accused will not be in a “time served” position before the trial date.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence and seeking a bail review on any of your conditions or are seeking you release, contact our office at 403-585-1960.