The Criminal Code in Canada mandates that anyone placed under arrest has a constitutional right to a bail hearing within 24 hours.
In Alberta, it’s become so common to go past the 24-hour time limit that there’s a code word for it: over-hold.
Statistics obtained by CBC News from Alberta Justice reveal that between March 2018 and March 2019 more than 25,000 bail hearings were held in Calgary and Edmonton. During that same time period, there were 678 over-holds in Calgary and 2,555 in Edmonton.
That means six per cent of accused didn’t hit the 24-hour bail threshold in Calgary, and 18 per cent in Edmonton.
“It is unacceptable,” Edmonton criminal defence lawyer Will van Engen said. “We’re talking about routine deprivations of an individual’s fundamental charter rights. It’s unsurprising to me, but it still is shocking to me.”
Van Engen said some of his clients have been over-held and he will be in Court of Queen’s Bench next month representing an accused in an over-hold case.
William also noted that the Court of Appeal will soon hear a key case on this issue, and he is hopeful.
“I’m optimistic that the Court of Appeal will see this as the deep problem that it really is and that they will do something about it,” van Engen said. “I think it’s something that needs to be addressed soon. Because every day this is happening.”