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COMPELLING APPEARANCE, DETENTION AND RELEASE - Judicial interim release or bail

Thursday, March 28, 2019 @ 3:40 PM  


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Appeal by Myers from a decision of the British Columbia Supreme Court confirming his detention status. Myers was already on bail for unrelated break and enter charges when he was arrested following a high-speed car chase involving gunfire. He was detained and charged with a number of offences. He pled guilty to the outstanding break and enter charges, served his time, and was no longer detained on any matter when he sought bail for the first time for the charges related to the car chase. The judge was not satisfied that any terms of release would adequately address the risk that Myers would, if released, commit other offences or interfere with the administration of justice. He dismissed the application and ordered that Myers be detained on the basis of the ground set out in s. 515(10)(b). Myers’ review application was denied, and his detention order was confirmed by the British Columbia Supreme Court. Because he pled guilty and was sentenced, he was no longer in pre-trial custody, and the appeal was moot. The Court’s guidance was nonetheless sought to determine the correct approach to a detention review under s. 525 of the Criminal Code, and to explain the place of such a review within the larger context of pre-trial custody in Canada.

HELD: Appeal allowed. The issue of whether unreasonable delay operated as a threshold condition for reviewing the detention was of fundamental importance to the appeal. Courts across Canada shared an overarching consensus that the purpose of the s. 525 hearing was to prevent accused persons from languishing in pre-trial custody and to ensure a prompt trial. Parliament sought to achieve this purpose by subjecting lengthy pre-trial detentions to judicial oversight at set points in time. In order for the s. 525 hearing to fulfill its purpose, the jailer had to make the application within the appropriate time limit, and the court had to fix the date of the hearing without delay. Hearings were to be held at the earliest opportunity. The fundamental purpose of s. 525 was to afford an opportunity to have a judge scrutinize the detention itself. Individuals who had not had a full provincial court bail hearing that resulted in a detention order but remained in custody after 90 days should not be denied that safeguard. The question that the judge had to answer at a s. 525 hearing was whether the continued detention of the accused in custody was justified within the meaning of s. 515(10). The judge was therefore free to make inquiries about the case, as well as to rely upon the transcript, exhibits and reasons from any initial judicial interim release hearing and from any subsequent review. A reviewing judge had to provide accused persons with reasons why their continued detention was, or was not, justified. Unreasonable delay was not a threshold that was to be met before the detention of the accused was reviewed. Parliament did not intend to restrict the court’s ability to review the accused’s detention to situations in which there had already been an unreasonable delay. As the present case was moot, the Court simply allowed the appeal and made no further order.

R. v. Myers, [2019] S.C.J. No. 18, Supreme Court of Canada, R. Wagner C.J. and R.S. Abella, M.J. Moldaver, A. Karakatsanis, C. Gascon, S. Côté, R. Brown, M. Rowe and S.L. Martin JJ., March 28, 2019. Digest No. TLD-March252019011-SCC