Updated: Dec 20, 2020
In R v Sangster, 2020 ONCA 332, the applicant, Alexander Sangster, applied for bail pending the appeal decision regarding his conviction on April 25, 2018. Mr. Sangster was sentenced to seven years and seven months after being convicted of aggravated assault, assault causing bodily harm, pointing a firearm, careless use of a firearm, and possession of a loaded prohibited firearm.
On the evening of May 29, 2017, in a drug and alcohol induced furor, Mr. Sangster assaulted his girlfriend, Ms. Lambersten-Downing, stabbed his friend and neighbour, Mr. Carpenter, and pointed a shotgun at Mr. Davey (who, along with Ms. Strickland, owned the property where Mr. Sangster and his girlfriend lived). The next morning, with permission from Ms. Strickland to search the house, police found Mr. Sangster in his room, clutching his shotgun, and arrested him.
At trial, the applicant attempted to exclude the evidence that was collected during the police search, claiming a section 8 violation of the Charter which protects against unreasonable search or seizure. The trial judge found that there was no section 8 infringement, and, based on the evidence and witness testimony, convicted Mr. Sangster.
Section 679(3) of the Criminal Code allows for bail to be granted pending appeals. To obtain bail, the applicant must show that: (1) their appeal is not frivolous; (2) they will surrender themselves into custody in accordance with the terms of the order; (3) the detention is not necessary in the public interest. Both parties agreed that Mr. Sangster met his onus under the first two grounds. The question the Ontario Court of Appeal was tasked to answer is if Mr. Sangster’s detention is not necessary for the public interest.
The public interest analysis is comprised of two elements: (1) public safety; and (2) public confidence in the administration of justice.
To be denied bail on the ground of public safety, (i) an individual must pose a substantial likelihood of committing an offense of interfering with the administration of justice; (ii) the ‘substantial likelihood’ must endanger the protection or safety of the public; and (iii) the individual’s detention must be necessary for public safety. When weighing the evidence against these factors, the court found that Mr. Sangster should not be denied bail for public safety. While he was serving 497 days of pre-trial custody, Mr. Sangster received treatment for his drug and alcohol addiction and had been sober for two years; additionally, Mr. Sangster reconnected with family and, upon release, will be living with his mother who will serve as his surety, along with promising to attend counseling and have no contact with his girlfriend. This evidence was enough for the court to conclude that Mr. Sangster will not be a threat to public safety.
Public Confidence in the Administration of Justice
Two competing interests must be weighed when considering public confidence: enforceability and reviewability. Enforceability refers to the general rule that all judgments are immediately enforceable; whereas reviewability is concerned with the necessity to have a meaningful review process that does not require the person convicted to serve most or all of their sentence only to have the conviction overturned on appeal. When assessing the enforceability interest, the Court did acknowledge the seriousness of Mr. Sangster’s crime, but found that his commitment to sobriety and family support mitigated the necessity for enforceability; from this, they determined granting bail would not seriously undermine the public’s confidence in the administration of justice. When assessing reviewability, the court found that, although many grounds of appeal would be an uphill battle for Mr. Sangster, his appeal submissions were not frivolous and, therefore, strengthened the reviewability interest.
Conclusion and Decision
Upon review of the facts and information before them, the Court found that the reviewability interest outweighed the enforceability interest; with this finding, in conjunction with the conclusion that Mr. Sangster would not be a threat to public safety, the court determined that the detention of Mr. Sangster is not necessary for the public interest; and so, the application for bail pending appeal was granted.
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