B.C. premier welcomes new Liberal bail reform legislation, which includes new measures that would make it harder for some repeat violent offenders to be released on bail.
Justice Minister David Lametti introduced the bill on Tuesday, saying it responds “directly” to concerns raised by premiers, police associations and victims’ rights groups.
Bill C-48 would amend the Criminal Code so that persons charged with a serious violent offense involving a weapon — one of which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison — who have been convicted of a similar offense within the past five years will face a reverse onus to secure bail.
The “reversal of the charge” means that the defendant should show why he should be released instead of the prosecution having to prove that he should remain behind bars.
British Columbia Premier David Eby said Tuesday his government was at the forefront of pushing for changes to keep repeat offenders in jail.
He said bills can often get locked in partisan political debate in the House of Commons or move slowly in the Senate, but that shouldn’t happen with bail reform.
“It can’t be one of those bills,” Eby said.
“This cannot be a partisan bill. Everyone needs to be on deck to make sure it addresses the concerns we are seeing across the country. Prime ministers across the country have spoken and I’m not. I don’t think it will be acceptable to anyone from any political party if this bill becomes a political football or gets stuck in the Senate.
The bill would also expand the use of the reverse onus for offenses related to firearms and intimate partner violence, and allow courts to take into consideration the safety of the community and the background of violence of an accused when making a bail decision.
Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women’s Support Services in Vancouver, says it’s too early to gauge the impact of the new bail reform law.
“The challenge is always in the implementation and monitoring,” MacDougall said.
British Columbia Attorney General Niki Sharma said the province is making efforts to deal with repeat offenders.
Last month, the province announced it was creating centers staffed by dedicated police, prosecutors and probation officers to target repeat violent offenders.
The 12 centers are part of the Violent Recidivism Intervention Initiative, which the province says will focus on targeted enforcement and improved investigation and monitoring and will be tailored to meet the needs of communities. .
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