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WHEREAS crime has been an issue in rural Alberta for several years, frustrating residents and leading them to believe the justice system is broken as the courts appear to have a catch and release policy; and
WHEREAS rural areas are particularly vulnerable to crime, as farms and isolated houses seem to be easy targets for criminal activity; and
WHEREAS suggestions for improvements to the bail system may come from examining other provincial jurisdictions; and
WHEREAS local elected officials, police, and residents are the most knowledgeable about their communities, the rate of crime, and the characteristics of offenders; and
WHEREAS all Albertans benefit from lower crime and a fairer justice system;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta advocate to the Government of Alberta to:
To: Minister of Justice – Mr. Tyler Shandro
Rural Crime Committee Final Report to the Minister of Justice June 15, 2022
Rural Crime has been an issue in the Drayton Valley Constituency for at least the 7 years that I have been in public office. Much of the frustration by constituents centers around a belief that the justice system is broken as the courts appear to have a catch and release policy that has meant that repeat offenders are too often let go on bail by the court only to re-offend almost immediately in the local community. This has created a great deal of concern in rural areas of the Drayton Valley – Devon constituency and Brazeau County as farms and isolated houses seem to be open picking for drug gangs as they steal to finance their habit or increase their profits. After meeting with constituents in town hall meetings it was determined that Brazeau County Counsellors and the MLA for Drayton ValleyDevon and a representative of the local RCMP detachment would meet to study the issues faced by rural police and make recommendations for changes to the bail system in Alberta.
Mr. Cody Brooks – Councilor Brazeau County
Mr. Randy Swap – Councilor Brazeau County
Staff Sargent Erin Matthews – Drayton Valley RCMP Detachment
Mark Smith – MLA Drayton Valley Devon Constituency
Step 1: The Committee met 3-4 times over the course of January, February and March of 2022 to talk with stakeholders and brainstorm suggestions for how to improve the bail system. Through these discussions the committee discussed a wide range of issues that included: Bail Packages, the Bail ladder, Transportation of prisoners, 24 hour releases and the need for a cross-jurisdictional analysis of how other provinces are handling these same issues.
Step 2: Rural Crime Committee then approached Justice asking for an analysis of the Rural Crime Committee’s recommendations to see if they had merit. The Rural Crime Committee then reviewed the Ministry Analysis and eliminated some of the Rural Crime Committees recommendations. The Rural Crime Committee also amended some recommendations or in some cases decided to continue our support for the original recommendations.
Step 3: Final Report
Drayton Valley-Devon Policy Sub-Committee for submission to the UCP Provincial Policy Sub-Committee where hopefully they will be debated on the floor at the next UCP AGM.
Recommendations of the Rural Crime Committee for the Minister of Justice:
Original Rural Crime Committee Recommendation #1: Bail Packages
“Justices should be given a complete bail package with details of arrest circumstances and history of previous offences by date.
Justices or the bail Crown officer must read before the courts a summary of the details of the arrest circumstances and history of previous offences by date.”
Ministry Analysis ( Black) – Rural Crime Committee Response (Blue)
– The prosecutor Information sheet is the particulars of the offence. It is the document we use to explain to the court our grounds that the offence we as police are alleging occurred and who did it. We do not agree that this document may contain information considered inappropriate on a legal basis, it contains the elements of the offence. The current process allows the prosecutors and defence counsel to only present what they choose to the Justice and omit relevant details to ensure that their joint submission will be accepted by the sitting Justice. This puts the Justice in an unfair position when they are determining release. Having the Justice receive a copy of the prosecutor information sheet will ensure they know all the details around how the offence occurred when determining release. This was the practice in the past.
– While not crown prosecutors, police and probation are trained in the matters of evidence. In 99% of investigations police are the agency that determines if enough evidence exists to lay a charge, not the crown. Crown then prosecutes the file.
Management’, will be able to identify offenders who are part of IOM.
Final Recommendation to the Minister of Justice – Bail Packages:
Original Rural Crime Committee Recommendation #2: Bail Crown Office
“Either increase funding so that the Bail Office is open 24/7, 365 days of the year or allow police officers to address the setting of bail when the office is closed and a Bail Crown Officer is not available.”
In regards to the recommendation to allow police officers to address the setting of bail, it is important to note that:
The Review concluded that police did not have the necessary authority to do so under the Criminal Code.
Final Recommendation to the Minister of Justice – Bail Crown Office:
Our committee concluded that with increased funding the bail office in Edmonton could be open 24/7 just as the Calgary office is which would increase the efficiency of the bail system.
Original Rural Crime Committee Recommendat #3: Bail Ladder
“If the accused has not lived up to the conditions of a no cash bail from a previous charge or offence then the judge must now move forward with a cash bail alternative for this and future offences. Implement an actual bail ladder that incorporates a guideline of increasing cash bail rungs. This could be a mandatory minimum ladder or a publicly visible guideline.”
It clarifies that the officer, justice, or judge shall give “primary
consideration to the release of the accused at the “earliest reasonable opportunity” and “on the least onerous conditions” appropriate in the circumstances, and require that conditions imposed must be “reasonably practicable for the accused to comply with.”
Final Recommendation to the Minister of Justice – Bail Ladder:
The Rural Crime Committee recommends that the Minister of Justice lobby the Federal Minister of Justice to amend the Bail Ladder system such that if the accused has not lived up to the conditions of a no cash bail from a previous charge or offence then the judge must now move forward with a cash bail alternative for this and future offences. Implement an actual bail ladder that incorporates a guideline of increasing cash bail rungs. This could be a mandatory minimum ladder or a publicly visible guideline.
Original Rural Crime Committee Recommendat #4: Cross Jurisdictional Analysis
“The Ministry of Justice needs to do a cross jurisdictional analysis of other provinces to see how they are handling some of the issues: Bail Packages, Bail Crown Offices, Bail Ladder and any other issue that may be impacting the increase in catch and release of the criminal element.”
Final Recommendation to the Minister of Justice – Cross Jurisdictional Analysis
The Ministry of Justice do a cross jurisdictional analysis of other provinces to see how they are handling some of the issues: Bail Packages, Bail Crown Offices, Bail Ladder and any other issue that may be impacting the increase in catch and release of the criminal element with the goal of making recommendations to the Minister of Just on ways to stop the catch and release scenario that is prevalent in Alberta.
Original Rural Crime Committee Recommendation #5: Bail Sub-Committee
“Sponsor the creation of a Bail Sub-Committee made up of stakeholders like: Justices, Crown Prosecutors, Bail Crown Officers, Police/Sheriffs, Citizens etc. to study how to amend the bail process to address the problem of a judicial system that has become a revolving door.”
Final Recommendation to the Minister of Justice – Bail Sub-Committee
It is the Rural Crime Committees recommendation that a Bail Sub-Committee be created that would include the stakeholders from the Ministry Analysis and the Rural Crime Committee that would review the Cross Jurisdictional Analysis and any recommendations from the Ministry of Justice and the conversations with the Federal Government. This committee would also meet several times a year to, canvass stakeholders and Albertans on ideas for improving the justice system. These ideas would be reviewed by the committee and after analyzing the suggestions the committee would present a yearly report to the Minister making recommendations on how to make the justice system work in an efficient fashion and address the problem of a judicial system that has become a revolving door.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.