Today, a judge of the Superior Court of Justice ordered bail in a bail review case in part due to concerns over potential outbreaks of COVID-19 within Ontario prisons. In R. v. J.S., the court found a material change in circumstances and granted bail, specifically commenting as follows:
“In my view, the greatly elevated risk posed to detained inmates from the coronavirus, as compared to being at home on house arrest, is a factor that must be considered in assessing the tertiary ground”.
“I want to be clear that I am not suggesting any failure of the correctional authorities to take appropriate steps to attempt to keep inmates healthy, and to limit the spread of the virus. But I take notice of the fact, based on current events around the world, and in this province, that the risks to health from this virus in a confined space with many people, like a jail, are significantly greater than if a defendant is able to self-isolate at home. The virus is clearly easily transmitted, absent strong social distancing or self-isolation, and it is clearly deadly to a significant number of people who it infects. The practical reality is that the ability to practice social distancing and self-isolation is limited, if not impossible, in an institution where inmates do not have single cells. I note that this factor concerns not only Mr. S.’s own health, but also the preservation of scarce hospital resources to treat patient. If more people are infected, those resources will be more strained.”
To access the decision in full, please click on this link.