bail

Ontario Courts Consider COVID-19 on Bail Review

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The subject of the COVID-19 virus has made its way into Ontario’s criminal courts and has been considered a “material change” in circumstances in a recent decision by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

In considering bail review applications in the cases of R. v. J.S and R v. Nelson, the Judges both acknowledged that the practice of social distancing and self-isolation is limited in Ontario’s prisons.

J v. J.S.

A suspected drug dealer, identified as J.S., requested a bail review by teleconference.  The defence argued that the Justice of Peace erred and that there were material changes in circumstances to allow for a house arrest surety bail.  A surety is someone who agrees to supervise an accused person while he/she is released into the community, or in this case on house arrest, as he/she awaits a court date to resolve a criminal matter.

In Canada, bail decisions are made following the consideration of the following three sets of factors:

  1. Whether detention is needed to ensure an accused will attend court;
  2. To protect the public safety;
  3. The strength of the Crown’s case and the consideration of other circumstances surrounding a case.

In the case of J.S., Justice Copeland acknowledged that there were two material changes in circumstances, which included new proposed sureties and the fact that COVID-19 had developed in Canada.

According to Justice Copeland:

In my view, the greatly elevated risk posed to detained inmates from the coronoavirus, as compared to being at home on house arrest is a factor that must be considered in assessing the tertiary ground. …

[B]ased on current events around the world, and in this province, that the risks to health from this virus in a confined space with many people, like a jail, are significantly greater than if a defendant is able to self-isolate at home.  The virus is clearly easily transmitted, absent strong social distancing or self-isolation, and it is clearly deadly to a significant number of people who it infects.  The practical reality is that the ability to practice social distancing and self-isolation is limited, if not impossible, in an institution where inmates do not have single cells.  … If more people are infected, those resources will be more strained.

Justice Copeland granted Mr. S’s bail review application and ordered the following terms:

  • $15,000 surety recognizance;
  • to reside with his surety K.S.;
  • to remain in his residence at all times, except in the continuous presence of a surety or for a medical emergency of himself or an immediate family member;
  • to have no contact whatsoever with J.C.; and
  • to not possess any unlawful drugs, except with a valid prescription.

R v. NELSON

In another recent case in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Justice M. L. Edwards was asked to consider whether to release on bail 27-year-old Nathaniel Nelson (“Nelson”), who was suspected of robbing a jewelry store while armed.

Nelson’s lawyer argued that his client should not face “the heightened risk of contracting the virus – a risk that is heightened because of the conditions that exist in a prison environment”.  However, his lawyer also “conceded that but for the virus, he fully recognized that the new plan of release was not one that had much, if any, chance of success”.

Justice Edwards ruled that those seeking bail on the grounds of COVID-19 must present “at least some rudimentary evidence” that they are more susceptible to the virus due to underlying health issues.  He stated:

An incarcerated person who is advancing in age and who has underlying health issues will almost, without doubt, be at a greater health risk of contracting the virus, with possible serious ramifications.

The heightened risk facing those in jail due to the unlikelihood of practicing social distancing while in a jail cell with double or triple bunking was a factor considered by Justice Edwards on this bail review.  Nelson’s youth, lack of pre-existing physical or mental health conditions, his prior criminal record and the fact that his charges were serious were also factors considered by the court. 

Justice Edwards dismissed the bail application and concluded:

I do not take lightly my decision to dismiss Mr. Nelson’s application.  Mr. Nelson previously did not meet his onus on the secondary and tertiary grounds for release. … I am not satisfied that there would be confidence in the administration of justice if Mr. Nelson was released from jail.

We will continue to follow any developments in the law with respect to the impact of COVID-19 and will provides updates in this blog

If you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.

Lawyer Convicted of Murder Granted Bail Pending Appeal

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Demitry Papasotiriou-Lanteigne (“Papasotiriou”) and his lover, Michael Ivezic (“Ivezic”), were found guilty of first degree murder in the death of Allan Lanteigne (“Lanteigne”) last June following a lengthy trial. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment with no parole eligibility for 25 years.

It was alleged that the Papasotiriou and Ivezic were having an affair and conspired to kill Papasotiriou’s spouse in order to access the victim’s $2 million life insurance policy. We previously blogged about this case on June 7, 2018.

Papasotiriou is appealing his conviction and alleges that the jury’s verdict was unreasonable because it was based on circumstantial evidence. The Court of Appeal has recently granted Papasotiriou bail pending his appeal.

PAPASOTIRIOU’S BAIL HISTORY

Papasotiriou was born in Greece and came to Canada at the age of 11 after his parents split up. As a young man, he attended university and law school, and was called to the Ontario Bar. He is currently 38 years old.

Papasotiriou left Canada in 2010 to live in Greece. Ivezic followed Papasotiriou to Greece and lived with him for six months in 2010, prior to returning to Canada in January of 2011. Lanteigne was killed on March 3, 2011. Ivezic returned to Greece on May 14, 2011 to live with Papasotiriou.

Papasotirou returned to Canada on November 1, 2012 to participate in litigation regarding the proceeds of his deceased spouse’s insurance policy. He was arrested the next day.

Papasotirou applied for bail in August 2013, but was denied. He re-applied in November 2013 and provided an improved plan of release to the Court. He was again denied.

On September 11, 2014, Papasotirou was discharged following a preliminary inquiry. However, the Crown immediately launched a certiorari application (a formal request to a court challenging a legal decision alleging that the decision has been irregular or there has been an error of law) and a direct indictment was ordered on October 28, 2014, at which point Papasotirou was arrested.

Papasotirou again applied for bail, which was granted. He was released on a $400,000 recognizance with his mother, sister, and stepfather acting as sureties (person who promises to a judge to supervise an accused person while they are out on bail and pledges an amount of money). He remained out on bail for 3 ½ years with no compliance issues.

At the Court of Appeal, counsel for Papasotiriou proposed a plan for release pending his client’s appeal as follows:

  • $500,000 recognizance with his mother, stepfather, and stepfather’s mother as sureties;
  • strict house arrest with very narrow exceptions; and
  • GPS ankle bracelet to be monitored by Recovery Science Corporation (funded by Papasotiriou).

GROUNDS FOR GRANTING BAIL PENDING APPEAL

Pursuant to section 679(3) of the Criminal Code, a judge of the appeal court may order an appellant released pending appeal if he/she has established the following:

  • That the appeal is not frivolous;
  • That he/she will surrender into custody in accordance with the terms of any bail order; and
  • That the detention is not necessary “in the public interest”.

The “not frivolous” test is a very low bar, and in Papasotiriou’s case the Crown did not suggest to the Court that the appeal is frivolous.

The Crown did, however, argue that Papasotiriou has not discharged his onus to surrender into custody given his ties to Greece. The Court of Appeal, rejected the Crown’s argument on this ground, and held that Papasotirou’s compliance with his pre-trial bail order was “flawless” and the use of electronic monitoring will provide an “extra layer of assurance against absconding”.

The Court stated:

I accept that, standing alone, Mr. Papasotiriou’s connections to Greece may give pause for concern. However, any lingering concerns about flight are answered by his history of bail compliance and the strict release plan that is proposed. Accordingly, I am satisfied that the applicant will surrender into custody in accordance with his bail order.

The Court of Appeal outlined that there are two components which make up the third provision (public interest) to consider in granting bail pending an appeal. These include public safety and confidence in the administration of justice. The Supreme Court of Canada addressed the provision regarding the “public interest” in the case of R. v. Oland. The judicial discretion to grant bail pending appeal involves balancing enforceability (taking into account the gravity of the offence, the circumstances surrounding its commission, and the potential length of imprisonment) and reviewability interests (taking into account the strength of the grounds of the appeal).

The Crown conceded that Papasotiriou has proven that he will not commit offences if he is released on bail, thus discharging the onus of the public safety component. However, the Crown did take issue with maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice.

The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Papasotiriou and held:

The “public interest” requires that I balance all of these factors – the circumstances of the applicant, the nature of the offence, the apparent strength of the appeal, and the time it will take to argue the appeal – to determine whether public confidence in the administration of justice would be undermined by Mr. Papasotiriou’s release on bail.

The Court of Appeal maintained that Papasotiriou was not being “turned loose”, but rather carefully monitored in accordance with a stringent release plan (i.e. house arrest, GPS electronic monitoring, and the pledge of $500,000 by his sureties), which is consistent with the proper functioning of the Canadian justice system. Therefore, the Court allowed Papasotiriou’s application and granted him bail pending his appeal.

We will continue to follow any developments in this case as it makes its way through the judicial system and will provide updates in this blog.

In the meantime, to speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Man Convicted of Sexual Assault Sentenced In Absentia After Fleeing the Country

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Moazzam Tariq, a 29-year old Brampton man convicted of sexually assaulting a woman who was too intoxicated to consent to sex, has been sentenced in absentia after fleeing the country to Pakistan.

As we previously blogged about, Tariq was found guilty of sexual assault in October of this year, based in large part on shocking surveillance videos. He was expected at his sentencing hearing earlier this month, but failed to appear.

Not the First Time the Offender Has Fled the Country

This is the second time that Tariq has left Canada in order to avoid a jail sentence. Due to an apparent failure to update the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) (the national database of criminal records), both Toronto police and prosecutors were unaware that Tariq had previously been charged with dangerous driving causing bodily harm in January 2010, and that he subsequently fled to Pakistan, while on bail, with his father as surety.

Tariq was re-arrested entering Canada in September 2011, at which point he had informed officers that he had left the country to avoid jail on the outstanding charges, and spent the year in Pakistan and various European countries. He was charged with failure to appear as well as robbery, and was released on bail two days later to his father and another surety for $25,000. In July 2012 he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving. All other charges were withdrawn. Tariq received a sentence of 90 days in jail (to be served on weekend), as well as 18 months’ probation.

Ontario Court Justice Mara Greene stated that “had we known his history he would have been put in custody immediately” and would likely not have been granted bail on the sexual assault charge. Justice Greene called Tariq’s escape a “foregone conclusion”.

After Tariq’s sexual assault conviction earlier this year, his father was asked what had happened when he had previously acted as Tariq’s surety following the dangerous driving charges. The father did not disclose that his son had fled the jurisdiction then, telling the court only that Tariq had committed a minor breach of his bail conditions because he lived within 500 meters of a school.

Offender Had Been Required to Surrender His Passport

At the time Tariq fled the country this time, he was on $10,000 bail, was required to live with his father in Brampton, and had to be home between the hours of 10pm and 6am. Upon conviction, he had also been required to surrender his passport. Allegedly, Tariq provided authorities with an expired passport that had been forged to appear current. He then used his valid Pakistani passport to leave Canada on November 18th through Montreal, stopping in Qatar, before ultimately ending up in Pakistan.

Prosecutors and the Court initially learned that Tariq was missing when he failed to show up at the sentencing hearing. However, he had been reported to have breached his bail on November 24th, after his father removed himself as surety, telling police that Tariq had gone to Vancouver on business and then subsequently stopped answering phone calls. A nationwide warrant for Tariq’s arrest was subsequently issued on December 5th, at which point Tariq had already been out of the country for two weeks.

At the time of the sentencing hearing, prosecutor Nathan Kruger told Justice Green that “Your Honour can make a reasonable inference that [Tariq] will not be returning and will not be found prior to Dec. 19”. Greene stated that communication between jurisdictions “clearly needs to be improved” adding that:

I have found Mr. Tariq guilty of a serious personal injury offence that affects the core integrity of the human body. And the potential risk to others if he remains in the community, given his disregard for the legal system is really concerning…[i]f there had been better communication mechanisms in place, if CPIC was updated properly we would not be in this position.

Following the initial sentencing hearing, Tariq’s defense lawyer was removed as his counsel at her request.

The Sentence

On December 19th, Tariq was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison.

At the hearing, Justice Greene acknowledged that it was unusual to proceed with sentencing in the absence of the offender, however, in this case it was necessary to allow the victim to move forward with her life.

Justice Greene took the victim’s impact statement into account when setting the sentence, acknowledging the immense trauma the victim was suffering and stating:

It is difficult to imagine that feeling of stopping to be who you are because of someone else’s callous violence towards you…

Prosecutors had sought a three-year sentence. They did not ask the Justice to consider Tariq’s flight as part of the sentence, telling the Court that if he was found and returned to Canada the issue of his flight would be dealt with separately.

Tariq’s father is expected to have a hearing next year over whether or not he should forfeit the $10,000 he provided for bail.

If you are facing sexual assault or related charges, or have questions about bail, contact the skilled defense lawyers at Affleck Barrison online or at 905 404 1947. For your convenience, we offer 24-hour phone services and a free confidential consultation. We are available when you need us most.

Ontario Taking Steps to Improve Criminal Justice System

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Earlier this month, the Ministry of the Attorney General announced that the Ontario government is taking proactive steps to make the province’s criminal justice system “faster and fairer”, including improving the bail system, and reducing the time it takes for matters to get to trial.

Highlights of the Government’s Plan

The government intends to enhance public safety through expediting the resolution of criminal matters and creating more supports for vulnerable individuals who come into contact with the legal system.

The plan includes:

  • The appointment of 13 provincial court judges, 32 Crown attorneys, 16 duty counsel (i.e.- lawyers who are paid by Legal Aid), and 26 court staff;
  • The appointment of three prominent legal experts, including a former Chief Justice, former Deputy Attorney General, and a deputy Crown attorney to provide insights on modernizing Crown (i.e- prosecution) policies on bail;
  • Several measures intended to improve the bail system, including a province-wide expansion and enhancement of the existing Bail Verification and Supervision Program, making the program available at several court locations on weekends, and extending eligibility for the program. This is intended to facilitate successful release of low-risk individuals on bail, pending trial, and ensure that they are not behind bars until their trial is completed;
  • Launching a new “bail beds” program in five Ontario communities to provide supervised and safe housing for low-risk individuals;
  • Embedding duty counsel in six correctional facilities province-wide to allow for more effective bail hearings;
  • Developing a new, culturally sensitive program providing support to Indigenous individuals going through the bail process.

Quick Facts about Bail

  • The decision to grant or deny a person bail is complex and based on the specific circumstances of each individual matter;
  • Some key factors considered by Crown when recommending bail are: public safety (particularly the safety of any victims), attendance in court, rights of the accused, and public confidence in the justice system;
  • If an accused is not released on bail, they will be held in hail until their trial is heard. This can take many months, or even a year or more;
  • Denial of bail causes significant damage to the life and career of the accused, as well as the life of their family.

Delays in the Current Justice System

Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi has stated that:

Our criminal courts are bottlenecked, daily dockets are jammed and early trial dates are hard to come by…This is not good for anyone.

The province’s announcement follows the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in R.v. Jordan, which set time limits by which all matters must get to trial. In the wake of the Jordan decision a case may be dismissed due to delay if it takes more than 18 months to get to trial in provincial court, or 30 months in Superior Court. As we’ve previously blogged about, Ontario courts subsequently changed their practices with respect to any cases that entered the system after the SCC’s ruling.

Last month, a Superior Court judge in Ottawa halted a first-degree murder case because it had taken too long to get to trial.

It will be interesting to follow developments in the province’s plan, and to see what effect it has on the criminal justice system. We will continue to monitor the program as it progresses, and will blog as needed to provide updates.

To speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about your rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947. Our firm and its predecessors have been protecting client rights since 1992. Our skilled lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s legal interests.  We are available 24 hours a day, and offer a variety of payment options, including Legal Aid. Whatever the nature of your offence, we can help.