Michael Bryant is the former Attorney General of Ontario who now practices law from the other side as a criminal defense lawyer. He spent years on the enforcement side of the criminal justice system until one night changed his life.
Bryant was arrested in regards to the death of a cyclist and was held for a mere 16 hours in jail, but says it changed his entire perspective.
“Until you have spent a day in the bucket, you don’t know what its like. While I was in jail, I felt like the system was out to get me and if that is how I felt, being someone who has been on the other side of the justice system, what is someone who is mentally ill or battling an addiction going to feel?”
Bryant says that more innocent people are being held in pre-trial detention right now than there are convicted criminals in prisons. He says that the process of being denied bail violates someone’s charter right to being presumed innocent until proved guilty. He defends this bold statement by explaining the situation of Karla Homolka’s release from prison.
Bryant was the Attorney General when she was released after serving her 12-year sentence for her crimes with then-husband Paul Bernardo. Upon her release, people were outraged and demanded she be kept in jail because they thought she was a danger to society. The Quebec court of appeal said that when someone does their time they are done and are free. Bryant says “this is the standard we adhere to when it comes to prison sentences, we cannot keep someone detained because we think they are dangerous, but that is exactly what we do in bail court; we keep people detained for the fear of what they might do.”
Lakin Afolabi is a criminal defense lawyer in London Ontario and says that bail breaches are one of the most abundant crimes in Canada and are for the most part, unnecessary. A bail breach is when someone violates the conditions of their bail. Afolabi says that “if someone is accused of domestic violence and their bail condition is to not speak to their girlfriend, but they have a child together and need to know where the child’s medicine is, that could send a man to jail.”
He believes that these types of conditions are unrealistic and are a portion of the bail system that needs to be abolished. The tertiary grounds for denying someone bail is that if a reasonably informed member of the public would lose faith in the justice system if said person is free.
“What reasonably informed person is going to lose faith in the justice system if a man texts his girlfriends back after she has sent him 60 text messages saying I miss you?”
These questions are the ones that plague criminal lawyers. Michael Bryant says that he deeply regrets some of his actions while on the other side of the law system but does not want to dwell on the pat. “All I can do now is move forward with the knowledge I have and try to right my wrongs. I need to just start fighting for what I believe in and that is that the bail system needs to be abolished in Canada.”