Ankle bracelets for those released on bail coming soon to N.L., says justice minister

Provincial court judges in Newfoundland and Labrador will soon have another option at their disposal when granting bail to people charged with crimes.

Justice Minister John Hogan says the province is close to introducing ankle bracelet monitoring as a bail condition. It's currently in place only for people already convicted of offences who have been released from custody on temporary absences, conditions or probation.

Hogan said it will especially helpful in cases of intimate partner violence, helping to deter suspected offenders from committing crimes while on bail.

"Anything we can implement sooner rather than later, I think we have an obligation to do and we will do," Hogan told CBC News on Monday.

Hogan said the new measures should be implemented within the coming "weeks or short number of months."

The new measures are contained within the Correctional Services Act — legislation drafted in 2011 but never brought into force. It was updated during the latest sitting of the House of Assembly, and the changes received royal assent at the end of May.

Ankle bracelets welcomed by advocates

Enhanced monitoring of suspected intimate partner violence offenders is one of the items on a wish list for a new group formed from a collection of advocates and organizations to compel governments to take immediate steps.

The Action Now intimate partner violence reform committee was formed in the aftermath of several high-profile instances of intimate partner violence, including a case in which a man is accused of murdering a woman after he was released on bail for allegedly assaulting her.

"Right now we're seeing subpar conditions of release," said Angie Brenton, a counsellor at Iris Kirby House and one of the organizers behind the Action Now group.

Hogan has met with Action Now once already, and organizers said he was receptive to their ideas.

"A lot of our asks or our objectives in our intimate partner violence reform committee [have] already been done throughout provinces, at the provincial or federal level as well," said group member Olivia Lynch, who is also the executive director of Violence Prevention Avalon East.

"This isn't reinventing the wheel. It's already been done."

Justice Minister John Hogan says a meeting is set for next week to discuss proposed amendments to the Election's Act.
Justice Minister John Hogan says the changes should be coming within a few months. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

The province had an ankle bracelet monitoring program in place more than a decade ago, but the Liberals said it was cancelled by the Tories in 2013 as a cost-cutting measure. In 2019, Liberal Justice Minister Andrew Parsons brought it back but it applied only to people who had already been convicted of offences.

Hogan said his department has hired a co-ordinator to usher in ankle bracelet monitoring at the pre-conviction stage. He said the Justice Department is willing to listen to any and all ideas that could curb the province's high rates of IPV.

"It's beyond an important issue," Hogan said. "This is an epidemic in Canada, and ... Newfoundland and Labrador isn't immune to it, and in fact we probably have worse rates. We need to really start moving to solidify some of these solutions to get these rates down."

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