VICTORIA — A snapshot of bail hearings in British Columbia shows only about a quarter of repeat offenders were kept in custody until their trial for violent offences, according to Crown lawyers.
The BC Prosecution Service gathered seven weeks of data in response to a directive issued by the provincial attorney general to ask courts to detain repeat violent offenders until trial.
However, the service says in a statement that it would be unreasonable to assume policy changes by its prosecutors alone would produce any outcome during a bail hearing.
The service says because bail laws are established by the federal government, Crown counsel are still bound by the Criminal Code and neither they nor police have authority to detain accused violent offenders.
Canada’s premiers and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police met virtually on Friday to talk about countrywide concerns over recent crime and violence.
B.C. Premier David Eby said after the meeting the federal government needs to act on its promise to amend bail laws to address the national risk to public safety that is showing up in every province and territory.
The preliminary data released by the BCPS Monday provides additional insights into the outcomes of bail hearings.
It reveals that Crown Counsel sought restrictive conditions on the release of the accused in around 70-79 per cent of bail hearings, while pre-trial detention was sought in 21-30 per cent of the hearings.
However, judges ordered pre-trial detention in less than half the cases where Crown Counsel sought it (ranging from 30-47 per cent) and in only about one-tenth of all bail hearings overall (7-14%).
The BCPS added that the data sample size is relatively small and covers limited periods, so no clear conclusions can be drawn about the impact of the directive and policy changes surrounding the bail process or its outcomes.
The BCPS also emphasized that its policy change alone cannot produce specific outcomes during bail hearings, as Crown Counsel and police have no authority to detain accused violent offenders, and judges must apply federal law under the Criminal Code.