POLITICS

Police or Crown prosecutors? Who do provinces use during first bail hearings

02/12/2015 04:00 EST | Updated 04/13/2015 05:59 EDT
Police officers standing in for Crown prosecutors at bail hearings has become an issue in the shooting of two Mounties last month near Edmonton. The shooter, Shawn Rehn, was on the streets after a police officer consented to bail on charges that included possession of a motorcycle, escaping custody and weapons offences.

Police can release people arrested for minor crimes on promises to appear in court later. In more serious cases, suspects must be seen by judges or justices of the peace within 24 hours and can ask for bail — the process Rehn went through. It varies among provinces whether Crown prosecutors attend these hearings or police officers act in their place:

British Columbia: Crowns typically conduct initial bail hearings. But in smaller jurisdictions, after hours, police act in their place. Crowns are available around the clock in larger centres.

Alberta: Police step in for Crowns in all bail hearings before justices of the peace.

Saskatchewan: It's uncommon, but police can act as Crowns before justices of the peace.

Manitoba: Crowns handle all bail hearings and are on-call nights and weekends. They are also available by phone in remote locations.

Ontario: Crowns handle all bail hearings. Weekend and statutory holiday courts operate in each region of the province.

Quebec: Crowns, not police, actually lay criminal charges in Quebec and handle all bail hearings before judges. They are available nights and weekends.

Newfoundland and Labrador: Police officers can step in for Crowns on summary conviction offences, only if they are designated as agents by the attorney general. None is currently designated.

New Brunswick: There are no justices of the peace in the province. Hearings are held with judges and Crowns, over the phone if necessary after hours.

Nova Scotia: Bail is heard during regular weekday hours before judges with Crowns. On nights and weekends, accused people appear before justices of the peace with police acting on the advice of Crowns over the phone.

Prince Edward Island: When accused persons first appear before justices of the peace, police can make submissions instead of Crowns. But most cases are put over to be heard by judges with Crowns.

(Source: The justice departments or Crown offices in each province)