Justice System Fails All But The Accused

By TOM BRODBECK -- Winnipeg Sun
Thu, May 5, 2005

Few things underscore the sorry state of our crippled justice system than the revolving door of bail.

Check out the latest instalment of Crime Stoppers in The Winnipeg Sun and you'll see why.

Arthur Lee Simmons was charged Aug. 13, 2003, after his girlfriend was stabbed 15 times in the face, neck, head and arms.

He was arrested by police but released on bail by the courts.

Simmons, 38, was arrested again in November of that year for allegedly breaching his bail conditions by contacting the victim.

Again, he was released on bail.

Simmons was charged the next month for breach of conditions and -- you guessed it -- he was released on bail one more time. Amazing.

Simmons never did show up for his court date and he's now on the lam with a warrant for his arrest. He's been charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, uttering threats and five counts -- count 'em, five -- of failing to comply with a recognizance.

Leonard John Lavallee, 32, was charged with assault in May 2004 and was already wanted by police in Ontario. He was released on bail and failed to appear in court. A warrant was issued for his arrest.

Lavallee was then charged in January with two counts of break and enter.

He was re-arrested and -- you got it -- was released on bail.

He failed to appear in court last month and he's on the lam.

Month after month we hear of a new crop of offenders arrested, charged, granted bail, re-arrested after breaking bail and granted bail again -- sometimes three or four times in a row.

And they leave behind a string of innocent victims who have had their houses broken into, their cars stolen or their faces beaten in.

It's inconceivable to me how the courts allow this to happen.

It makes a complete mockery of our justice system.

To me, if you're granted bail and you violate the terms of your release, you should be put behind bars automatically pending the outcome of your court case.

End of story.

I'd really like someone to explain to me why the courts keep granting bail to people who have repeatedly violated their conditions, including failing to appear in court. I don't understand it.

Cops spend weeks and months hunting these guys down and when they finally get them before the courts, the courts let them go and they have to chase them down again, sometimes putting their own safety at risk.

I understand why someone accused of a crime is granted bail. People are presumed innocent until proven guilty. But if they violate the terms of their release, they've shown they have no respect for the courts or the justice system.

As a result, they should lose their right to bail.

What the federal government should do is bring in a one-strike-you're-out rule for all bail applications and take it out of the hands of lawyers, Crowns and judges.

You get bail once -- if you're eligible -- and if you screw it up, you're done. You sit in the Winnipeg Remand Centre until your case is heard.

And if we have to build a larger remand centre to hold everybody, I'm fine with that. They can take it out of Lt.-Gov. John Harvard's budget.

The alternative is a revolving door of bail where people commit crimes, get released from custody and commit more crimes. Which is completely unacceptable.

The safety of the community should take precedence over the rights of the accused.

But you wouldn't know it in our justice system.

Tom Brodbeck is the Sun's city columnist.
He can be reached by e-mail at: tbrodbeck@wpgsun.com
Letters to the editor should be sent to: editor@wpgsun.com

Copyright 2004 diArmani.com