Government Releases Bail Review and Plans for Improving System

A comprehensive review of Alberta’s bail system was conducted and is now being released.

The bail review resulted from an initial review completed by the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) following the fatal shooting of St. Albert RCMP officer Constable David Wynn and injury of Auxiliary Constable Derek Bond by an individual who was out on bail at the time of the incident.

Former federal Crown prosecutor Nancy Irving was hired to carry out the Alberta Bail Review (ABR) and report back by the end of February 2016. Many of the 31 recommended actions outlined are already underway or being worked on, while others require consultation with key stakeholders.

“This comprehensive review provides the government with recommendations we can consider to improve Alberta’s bail system. I’m confident that continued consultations with our key stakeholders will benefit both officer and public safety while leading to a more effective and efficient bail system.”

Kathleen Ganley, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General

In response to some of the recommendations outlined in the ABR, Minister Ganley has designated specified police officers with the authority to conduct first instance bail hearings.

Quick facts

  • In 2015 there were approximately 60,000 criminal arrests in Alberta which were followed by a first instance bail hearing.
  • Currently, police present at 99 per cent of first instance bail hearings in Alberta.
  • Alberta has 112 RCMP detachments and 10 municipal or First Nations police services.

Backgrounder: Alberta Bail Review recommendations

Recommendations already implemented/work underway include:

  • Recommendation 7: The review recommends the continued involvement of both Provincial Court judges and justices of the peace in Alberta’s bail system.
  • Recommendation 10: The review recommends that resource and management issues relating to wait times at hearing offices be addressed as soon as possible.
  • Recommendation 16: The review recommends that the Red Deer pilot project continue and the results of the project be made public, while respecting the principles of judicial independence.
  • Recommendation 17: The review recommends that prosecutors always consider seeking bail revocation when an accused on bail allegedly commits indictable offences or fails to comply with a release order.
  • Recommendation 18: The review recommends that the Government of Alberta facilitate the development of an e-court document management system as soon as possible.
  • Recommendation 19: The review recommends the use of electronically transmitted information wherever feasible for the purposes of the bail process.
  • Recommendation 21: The review recommends the ACPS and the PPSC receive enhanced training on the revocation procedure set out in section 524 of the Criminal Code.
  • Recommendation 22: The review recommends that the ACPS extend the availability of PRISM and CREF to all of its offices, and the PPSC enhance the access of in-house prosecutors and agents to the documentation they require for section 524 revocation applications.
  • Recommendation 30: That the major/minor agreement between the ACPS and PPSC be amended to specifically address the coordination of bail hearings, including revocation applications and information sharing. This will provide greater clarity to prosecutors in both agencies.

Recommendations where stakeholder consultation and/or additional work is required:

  • Recommendation 1: The review recommends Crown prosecutors replace police presenters at hearing office bail hearings.
  • Recommendation 2: The review recommends that the provincial and federal governments provide the additional resources necessary for their respective prosecution services to properly discharge these added responsibilities.
  • Recommendation 3: The review recommends that the ACPS and PPSC consider using specially assigned hearing office and docket court prosecutors on a full-time basis.
  • Recommendation 4: If Alberta Justice and Solicitor General and police services wish to maintain the practice of police representing the Crown at hearing office bail hearings, the Minister should (1) satisfy herself that police have the requisite authority under the Criminal Code, and/or (2) seek an appropriate amendment to the Criminal Code.
  • Recommendation 5: If Alberta Justice and Solicitor General and police services wish to maintain the practice of police presenting at hearing office bail hearings, the review recommends that the Crown’s position on detention or release (including the conditions of release) be determined by a prosecutor;
  • Recommendation 6: The review recommends that the ACPS and PPSC provide education to police agencies in Alberta to ensure that police are properly trained in the use of their release powers under the Criminal Code.
  • Recommendation 8: The review recommends justices of the peace preside at first appearances and Provincial Court judges preside at subsequent appearances at the bail stage, wherever possible.
  • Recommendation 11: The review recommends that the use of tele-bail in Alberta be eliminated as soon as possible.
  • Recommendation 12: The review recommends that Legal Aid duty counsel be made available at hearing office bail hearings in conjunction with greater Crown involvement.
  • Recommendation 13: The review recommends that Legal Aid Alberta be provided with the additional funding required to properly discharge this added responsibility.
  • Recommendation 14: The review recommends that more light be shed on the bail hearing functions of the hearing offices, and that those hearings be reasonably accessible to the public.
  • Recommendation 20: The review recommends the ACPS and the PPSC develop practice directives to guide prosecutors how to best address section 524 bail revocation applications when the outstanding charges and releases orders are in another jurisdiction.
  • Recommendation 25: Before a bail hearing, the police should provide Crown counsel with the following information, at a minimum: a copy of the information setting out the criminal charges; an accurate synopsis of the allegations/circumstances of the offences; an up-to-date criminal record, including both a CPIC print out and JOIN sheet; information on outstanding charges and copies of forms of release on those charges; details of the accused’s personal circumstances, e.g. residence, employment, ties to the community, etc.; if police are recommending unusual or restrictive terms of release, or that bail be denied, the factual basis for their justification.
  • Recommendation 27: The review recommends that Crown counsel assume responsibility for providing disclosure at hearing office bail hearings.
  • Recommendation 28: The review recommends that police always do JOIN check when preparing bail packages, and that Alberta Justice and Solicitor General facilitate greater police access to the database and training in its use.
  • Recommendation 29: The review recommends that police and prosecution services explore opportunities to increase information-sharing between provincial jurisdictions, including information on criminal convictions, outstanding charges and release orders.
  • Recommendation 31: The review recommends improving bail-related data collection to allow a more complete understanding of the operation and outcomes of the bail process in Alberta.

Recommendations that are within the purview of another stakeholder:

  • Recommendation 9: The review recommends enhanced training in the law of bail be made available to judicial officers in Alberta. It further recommends the public disclosure of basic information about that training, while respecting the principles of judicial independence.
  • Recommendation 15: The review recommends a way be found to ensure that all contested bail hearings after first appearance in the Grande Prairie and Peace River districts be heard by a Provincial Court judge.
  • Recommendation 23: The review recommends that the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court clarify the role of hearing offices with respect to section 524 bail revocation applications.
  • Recommendation 24: The review recommends that the Resolution and Court Administration Services division of Alberta Justice and Solicitor General work with the Provincial Court to find a solution to the “no venue” for bail revocation problem in Peace River, Grande Prairie and Red Deer regions as soon as possible.
  • Recommendation 26: The review recommends that (a) bail presenters discontinue sending bail packages to the hearing offices and send instead only the following documents in advance of a bail hearing: a request for service form; a copy of the Information; a copy of the warrant remanding the accused; and a copy of the accused’s criminal record; (b) that the criminal record not be considered by the JP until it is entered as an exhibit and becomes part of the evidentiary record.