Justice Minister Michael Baker says a questionable judgment calland several contributing factors led to the release of a youthwho was later charged in a fatal collision in Halifax on Oct. 14. “It’s important for the public to understand that every day incourt, our Crown attorneys exercise discretion in handlingdifficult cases,” said Mr. Baker. “They must continue to exercisethat discretion and make difficult judgment calls. “Based on court transcripts and other documents, I believe it wasextremely unfortunate that no request was made to keep this youthin custody,” said Mr. Baker. “I feel there were sufficientwarning signs, enough serious charges laid, that this personwould more properly have been held in custody while awaitingtrial and sentencing for the matters before the court. A balancemust always be struck between the liberty of the subject, whileawaiting trial and disposition, and the need to ensure publicsafety. “With the co-operation of the director of Public Prosecutions, Iam taking steps to ensure that effective guidelines are developedto deal with such situations so that public confidence in ourjustice system will be maintained.” Mr. Baker said that while he doesn’t agree with the Crownattorney’s decision, he believes there were several complicatingfactors which contributed to the release of the youth from courtin Windsor:– provisions in the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act thatpresume young persons will be released, pending trial andsentencing;– lack of clarity around procedures for transferring casesbetween different court locations;– the failure of a Crown attorney in Halifax to arrange for anorder to transfer the youth to Halifax for a bail hearing. Heforgot to make the arrangements. “As a result of what we’ve learned, we owe it to the public totake steps to eliminate any uncertainty,” said Mr. Baker. Mr. Baker said he will travel to Ottawa before the annualministers’ meeting in January to address two important publicsafety issues arising from this case: provisions in the federalYouth Criminal Justice Act that keep youth out of pre-trialcustody unless their offences are considered violent and the needto treat auto theft and reckless driving more seriously. “Our police are concerned that stronger sentences are needed forcriminals who steal vehicles and criminals who drive recklessly,putting innocent people in danger,” Mr. Baker said. “I’m going toconsult with agencies in our justice system to put forward astrong message that citizens need greater protection. I’ll takethat message to federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler and againto my provincial counterparts at our annual meeting in January.” “I have also directed the Public Prosecution Service andDepartment of Justice to implement guidelines to addresscommunication and administrative problems we have identified.Discussions are already underway to find more effective ways tohandle arrest warrants, requests for transfers and communicationprotocols.” Mr. Baker said he is satisfied that police agencies actedproperly in the case of the youth, who appeared in court prior tohis release on Oct. 12. Chief Judge Patrick Curran of theProvincial Court issued a statement on Friday, Oct. 29, toexplain the role of the judiciary in these matters. By law, the youth’s name cannot be released to the public. Accessto youth court records can only be sought by applying to thecourt.