R. v. Antic is a welcome decision from the Supreme Court of Canada. With R. v. Antic, Justice Wagner reestablished the presumption of innocence and reaffirmed the principle of fundamental justice. Moreover, this decision reminds bail court of the significance of the presumption of innocence for accused in custody. Antic highlights the necessity for bail court to consider the accused as an individual rather than a number in a line of in-custody accused.
While reasonable bail for the accused is constitutionally guaranteed criminal defence lawyers and their accused clients often face hurdles and roadblocks attempting to secure reasonable bail. The criminal defence lawyers representing Antic, argued to the Supreme Court that the default position for an accused person is their unconditional release, and further that the accused should be released on the least restrictive conditions unless it is demonstrated by the Crown that it is necessary to deny them bail. The Supreme Court affirmed this argument, ruling in favour of their appeal.
R. v. Antic serves as a much needed reminder to bail courts to uphold accused’s persons constitutionally guaranteed right to a reasonable bail. With R. v. Antic the Supreme Court took an opportunity to comment on our bail system generally. The Court provided direction to bail court, focusing on strengthening the rights of the accused.
Please find below the six directives to bail courts provided by Justice Wagner:
1. That the unconditional release of an accused person on an Undertaking is the default position of bail courts, with some exceptions.
2. That if the Crown wants to force a stricter form of release it must demonstrate its necessity.
3. With Antic, the Supreme Court has made it an error of law for bail courts to fail to explain why a less severe form of release was not used. This allows for decisions to be more easily appealed to the Superior Court.
4. That before imposing a cash bail bail courts must now ask the accused if they have the ability to pay. This is significant because accused persons who are unable to find a suitable surety must sometimes handover an amount of money to the courts to secure their bail. In cases where the accused is suffering financial hardship this ensures that they will not be denied bail on that basis.
5. That bail conditions must only be imposed to the extent necessary to maintain confidence in the administration of justice and to enforce that the accused follows his bail conditions.
6. That in the case of consent release, when the Crown agrees to consent to the release of the accused and bail conditions are agreed upon by the Crown and the defence, bail courts can now reject the proposed bail if it finds that the suggested conditions are too strict.
R. v. Antic serves as a necessary reminder to bail courts to uphold the rights of the accused, forgoing unnecessary detentions, house arrests and otherwise onerous conditions. Moving forward it is anticipated that this decision will translate to fairer treatment for the accused as they attempt to secure bail.