Convicted murderer Dennis Oland‘s bid for bail at the Supreme Court of Canada could set an important legal precedent nationally, and several provinces are arguing such releases may not be in the public interest.
Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia have filed motions for leave to intervene in Oland’s appeal to the top court.
Ontario’s Attorney General says Canadians expect sentences for murder and other serious crimes to be enforced, and bail should only be considered when there are “very strong” grounds of appeal.
“It will be Ontario’s position that reasonable members of the public expect that sentences imposed for all crimes, but particularly for more serious offences, will be enforced when handed down,” wrote Gregory Tweney, acting director of the Attorney General’s criminal law office.
Oland, 48, was sentenced in February to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years, after being found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his multimillionaire father, who was found bludgeoned in his Saint John, N.B. office in 2011.
Richard Oland, 69, was discovered face down in a pool of blood on July 7, 2011. He had suffered 45 sharp and blunt force injuries to his head, neck and hands. No murder weapon was ever found.
Dennis Oland is seeking release pending the appeal of his murder conviction, but the request has already been denied by two lower courts.
Nicole O’Byrne, an associate law professor at the University of New Brunswick, said Tuesday the law surrounding bail pending appeal in murder cases “has not been clearly defined” by the top court.
“It is likely that the Supreme Court of Canada granted leave in this case because it is an opportunity for the court to provide guidance for the country as a whole on the law of bail pending appeal,” she said, adding current jurisprudence comes from a series of lower court rulings.
No one in New Brunswick has ever been granted bail after being convicted of murder, and there have only been about three dozen such cases in Canada.
O’Byrne said Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia hope to argue that “it would be contrary to the public interest that a person convicted by a judge of a serious crime such as murder should be allowed to live in the community pending an appeal of the case.”
O’Byrne said she expects the court will want to hear as many views possible when it hears the appeal in Ottawa on Oct. 31.
In its affidavit, Ontario said the seriousness of an offence and the length of sentence must be considered when considering bail pending appeal.
British Columbia and Alberta also agree the seriousness of a case must be considered.
“Where an appellant has been convicted of a serious offence (measured by factors such as its objective gravity, the circumstances in which it was committed, and the sentence imposed), he or she will be required to demonstrate strong grounds of appeal to satisfy the public confidence component,” wrote lawyer Christine Rideout as an agent of the Alberta Attorney General.
But Oland’s lawyers say the provinces’ positions merely mirror the New Brunswick government’s, and they should not be granted intervener status.
“It is neither helpful to this Honourable Court nor fair to the Appellant or the Respondent herein to be joined by a trio of like-minded provincial counterparts to amplify its positions on this appeal,” wrote lawyers Alan Gold, Gary Miller and James McConnell.
Oland’s lawyers don’t oppose the application of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association of Ontario to intervene.
The bail appeal won’t be heard until after the appeal of Oland’s conviction – set for Oct. 18-21.