Bail system in spotlight as man accused of 4 B.C. cold case sex assaults released

Click to play video: 'Concerns over release of sex assault suspect'
Concerns over release of sex assault suspect
Concerns are being raised over the release of the suspect charged in a string of four cold case sexual assaults, despite the concerns of police and crown counsel. Catherine Urquhart reports – Aug 31, 2023

The justice system’s approach to bail is back in the spotlight, after a man accused of four cold case sex assaults in Vancouver was released shortly after being charged.

Arturo Garcia Gorjon, 45, is facing multiple sexual assault charges for attacks alleged to have taken place in 2009 and 2010.

Despite recommendations from both police and Crown prosecutors, we was granted bail by a B.C. judge.

Click to play video: 'Charges laid in B.C. cold case sex assaults'
Charges laid in B.C. cold case sex assaults

Court records show Gorjon was released on $15,000 bail. He is under conditions to report weekly to a bail supervisor, provide his home address, and refrain from applying for international travel documents. He’s also barred from any contact with his alleged victims.

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“We did ask for remand in this particular case,” Deputy Vancouver Police Chief Fiona Wilson said. “He went before a judge and the judge made the decision to release him with conditions.”

BC United Opposition Leader Kevin Falcon said the case highlights a broken bail system.

“It’s extremely disappointing, I have been saying for 18 months that this catch and release program we are seeing operate in this country, and especially in B.C., is not working for public safety,” he said.

“Finally, somebody, please put the interest of public safety ahead of the right of that individual to reoffend.”

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Murder charge in Surrey woman’s death in Australia

Falcon said he was pleased that Crown prosecutors sought to have bail denied in this case, but argued they aren’t doing enough on a daily basis to demand the same.

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Defence lawyer Ian Donaldson, who is not involved in Gorjon’s case, said it is not unusual for a judge to release someone on bail, even if prosecutors want to see them detained.

He said that’s because the justice system operates on the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty, and that judge’s must weigh three factors when deciding to keep someone in jail.

“Will the person show up, will they commit offences if released, and would the public confidence in the administration of justice be undermined by their release,” he said.

“Unless the Crown can demonstrate that one of those things requires detention, then this person was required to be released.”

Even if the Crown can make the case that one of those factors are in play, Donaldson said a judge may still decide to release the person if the risk can be mitigated through things like house arrest, electronic monitoring or a bail surety.

Click to play video: 'Crime Stoppers Cold Cases: Two fatal attacks'
Crime Stoppers Cold Cases: Two fatal attacks

B.C. Premier David Eby said Thursday that the case was another example of why bail reform is needed at the federal level, something that premiers across the country have been actively campaigning for.

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“One of the reasons we believe this is happening is the courts are applying the federal bail rules as they stand — the federal government has committed to change those rules, we expected them to be changed last session, they weren’t,” he said.

“My hope, my expectation, our insistence in B.C. is that the federal government pass those amendments this coming session as quickly as possible.”

Vancouver police announced the charges against Gorjon on Wednesday, more than a decade after the attacks were reported.

Police launched an investigation into three 2009 assaults — one near Granville Island, one in the West End and one in Yaletown —  in 2011 under the file Project Scrimmage.

But it took 12 years for a break in the case. In January, investigators were able to link a fourth sex assault, which occurred in downtown Vancouver on Christmas Eve 2010, to the other three.

That information led police to Gorjon, who was arrested in Regina on July 21.

He is due back in court on Sept. 12, 2023.

Click to play video: 'Arrest made by Vancouver police in sex assault cold cases'
Arrest made by Vancouver police in sex assault cold cases

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