Prime Time Crime


(Prime Time Crime July 24, 2008)


To Bail or Not to Bail


 By Sandra Martins-Toner

As the family & communities of the three slain children in Merritt, BC try to come to grips with the tragic loss of such innocence, many Canadians are in disbelief, and outrage. How could a man who had just been arrested and charged with making threats at the children’s school just days earlier be released on bail? It’s not just that he was released on bail, but how it was done.

Allan Schoenborn would be released by a JJP on April 3, 2008 via the telephone bail system used in BC. The RCMP who had made the arrest provided the JJP with a checklist, and even though they specifically mentioned that he should not be released as they had checked off many of the questions on the document, including “would the public be outraged if this individual was released,” and still the JJP released him.

We all recently read the statement made by the Attorney General, Wally Oppal where he states, “"We know with the benefit of hindsight something else might have been done but it's a horrible, horrible set of circumstances."   What Mr. Oppal is stating is absolutely absurd. I am ashamed for him really.

As we all know, when a case such as this goes to trial, the evidence brought before the courts is all hindsight. Lawyers, Prosecutors, and Judges reconstruct events after the fact; in hindsight. Everything they are dealing with is the aftermath of a murder; all of it is hindsight, things already done. They must piece together the puzzle of the crime scene, question witnesses, and determine facts. Are these not all things done in hindsight? Mr. Oppal is making excuses.

I think what every citizen of Canada is looking for right now is accountability. We want for our Judiciary to see, and admit that there is a huge crack in our Criminal Justice System. We are asking for them to cease covering up the truth, and begin to fix the problems, as they are escalating out of control.

If someone would just admit to making a wrong decision here, then perhaps this would begin a new transition for the Criminal Justice System. Rather than puffing their chests up in righteous indignation at being questioned on decisions like this one, the judicial “old boys network” should strive for truth and transparency. Government has learned the folly of this type of thinking, the judiciary must evolve also.

Things must be done differently to avoid this tragedy from destroying another family. This is not the first time something like this has happened; it’s just that it’s amplified by the loss of innocent young victims. The Lee case in Victoria is strikingly similar. Here again, a suspect with a history of unstable behavior and violence is bailed by a Judge ignoring police protests….. How many more must there be?

Sandra Martins-Toner is the founder and executive Director of F.A.C.T. and can be contacted at



Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2008