Star Quoting Leora Shemesh:
“Amazing. The quickest bail hearing I’ve ever seen … [h]e’s a police officer and I guess that according to this city, he’s entitled to special treatment.”
And so begins a fairly thoughtless piece by The Star. Unfortunately the Star has forced me to come out on the side of Forcillo on this one because it cannot report dispassionately on this matter.
Forcillo is a police officer. Surrender and Bail can be arranged for normal citizens in a similar manner – it’s just not common. Assuming Shemesh is not being quoted out of context, her statement is disingenuous. She knows full well that Forcillo, had he been remanded into custody would have been a liability not just to the corrections system, but to the officers handling him and Shemesh’s own clients in the holding cells under Old City Hall. If you think putting Forcillo in a cage with a large number of accused some of whom have legitimate grievances against the police, is a good idea, then you haven’t thought this through. Forcillo, like most people, is entitled to bail. He is not a likely flight risk. It’s not as though he’s been apprehended after remaining at large. He was told he was going to be charged and arranged a surrender. How many of Shemesh’s clients enter the criminal justice system that way? Probably not many.
Having said that, Shemesh is right on one point: that there is some special treatment here. Forcillo has the resources either personal or with the assistance of the Police Union, to secure bail. Many people who are charged under the criminal code are often without means and so it takes time to get them council and secure a surety for bail. This system should be improved. The other question one might ask Shemesh is how many of her clients opt to remain in remand in order to secure sentences of “time served”?
This case is going to be frought with enough controversy without the imagined “issues” of whether Forcillo spends a day or two in a holding cell eating state resources due to the unusually high need to protect him. No he’s going to get special treatment. The next story I predict will cover the speed at which he secures a trial date. For most accused in Ontario you’re lucky if you get a date within 8 months. He’ll undoubtedly get special treatment there as well. This too is something that is necessary, and I do not begrudge him the trial, but what it will do is highlight just how badly the Province neglects the criminal justice system that the rest of us must deal with. Why are police officers accused of crimes more worthy of the basic protections provided by the charter while the rest of us are forced to accept a system that has been under funded for decades? I’m not talking about building prisons here. I’m talking about building court houses, hiring judges, crown attorneys and paying for legal aid. The unpopular part of the criminal justice system has been allowed to grind slowly to a halt, patched up occasionally by half-measures. It is one of the reasons Ontario has one of the worst criminal justice systems on the continent in terms of getting people to trial in a timely manner.
I’m relishing the trial of Forcillo, not because the content, but because this case will highlight for the rest of us just how badly 30 years of Provincial Governments have served us.