Sometimes the Law is not an Ass—it is much worse than that

Recently Manitoba has been the location of an incident that I should catch international attention for its idiocy.  If it hasn’t  happened yet, I suspect it will. The international media just hasn’t caught on to how stupid we can be.

The incident happened at our esteemed Law Courts in Winnipeg. A Winnipeg lawyer represented an  indigenous person from Ontario who had been arrested and placed in the Winnipeg Remand Centre as a result of breaching a court order that he abstain from alcohol. He had to pay a $20 cash deposit on his bail, which had been granted by the court, in order to get released from the Remand Centre.  He had agreed to the $20 payment thinking that was how much money he had. Unfortunately, the mantas 5¢ short. Since he was from Ontario and had only intermittent access to a phone, he cold not call anyone for help and spent the weekend in jail because he was unable to pay the full amount. No one would let him even though he only owed 5¢.

On Monday morning his lawyer discovered what had happened and returned to court to pay the outstanding amount. In fact, a sympathetic, and reasonable Magistrate, gave his defence lawyer a nickel to pay the outstanding amount. The lawyer got a receipt for the $20. The lawyer thought that this was the end of it. The entire cash required had been paid. Unfortunately, the lawyer did not understand the astounding ignorance of the law.

The following morning the defence lawyer learned that there had been a mistake. It turned out that his client had been 35¢ short. Much more than 5¢! So the hapless client had to stay in jail for the entire night because he could not pay the extra 30¢. So the client was transferred to Milner Ridge Correctional Facility, about 100 km away, because the space in the Remand Centre was needed for incoming prisoners. The defence lawyer had asked that his client remain until the bail was paid., but his request went unheeded—perhaps because the client was indigenous. Its  funny (not) how such incidents happen to them, rather than fine white people. As well the client had no one in the city that he could call for a tiny bit of cash to rectify the mistake.

When the client reached Milner Ridge the lawyer thought he would be released. Unfortunately, Milner Ridge had no facility to electronically access the client’s cash deposit which had been paid in Winnipeg. It was paid but he still could not get out of jail! After all his bail had been paid, so he thought. When the lawyer learned of this he returned to the courthouse and paid the client’s cash deposit himself. The client was returned to Winnipeg and was  released from jail a full week after he had been taken into custody. He stayed in jail for a week because the authorities thought he had not paid the outstanding 35¢ that actually had been paid.

While he was in jail he missed taking his prescription medication, which he needed because of a prior condition related to his addiction to OcyContin and his heart was alternately racing or slowing down. He was in serious jeopardy.

The Winnipeg Free Press reported, “According to Statistics Canada figures for 2016-2017 the average cost to house a prisoner in a provincial institution was $213 a day.” So taxpayers paid more than $1,400 to house this indigenous prisoner  even though he had paid all of his bail after being 35¢ short initially.

The Crown later stayed the charges. This means that the client was an innocent man! Innocent until proven guilty remember.

Charles Dickens said that the law was an ass.  Sometimes, Charles Dickens should have said it was much worse than that.

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