MANDEL: Let public know why accused cop killer was granted bail

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When the man accused of running down and killing veteran Toronto Police Const. Jeff Northrup was freed on bail, there were gasps of outrage across the city.

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People charged with first-degree murder are rarely released to await their trial at home — much less those accused of killing a police officer. How could this be?

There was anger from Premier Doug Ford. Dismay from Toronto Mayor John Tory. But interestingly, there were muted words from Police Chief James Ramer.

Did Superior Court Justice Jill Copeland have good reason to make the unusual decision of allowing 31-year-old Umar Zameer to return to his family while he stands charged with killing Northrup in the underground parking lot at City Hall on July 2?

We’re not allowed to know.

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A bail hearing and the reasons for a judge’s decision are routinely covered by a publication ban. The reasoning behind these bans is to ensure an accused can get a fair trial and the potential jury pool isn’t tainted by learning anything about the case in advance.

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But here, even the suspect wishes we knew why he was granted this unusual bail.

“The publication ban prevents me from discussing the evidence from the hearing or the reasons that led to the Court to conclude that Mr. Zameer should get bail,” his lawyer Nader Hasan said in a statement emailed to the Toronto Sun.

“We have advised the Court and the Crown of our intention to seek to vary the terms of the publication ban so that the public will better understand this case and why the Court reached this decision.”

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His lawyer acknowledged the public is “inevitably curious” about why someone charged with such a serious crime has been released on bail. Zameer must live under house arrest and be under electronic surveillance. He also has to surrender his passport.

But we want to know now.

Northrup, 55, and his partner were in plainclothes while investigating a stabbing when police allege the 31-year veteran was intentionally struck by a vehicle driven by Zameer.

Are there identification issues? Are there extenuating circumstances?

“The fact we don’t know the reasons why the presiding judge made such an extraordinary decision thanks to a publication ban is very troubling, it is wrong, and represents one more argument supporting my longstanding call for bail reform,” Tory said on Twitter. “We should all know the reasons that lie behind such a questionable decision.”

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Ford’s original tweet expressed outrage while also convicting the suspect. It was later deleted and replaced with a more judicious version: “This is beyond comprehension. It’s completely unacceptable that the person charged for this heinous crime is now out on bail. Our justice system needs to get its act together and start putting victims and their families ahead of criminals.”

  1. Margaret Northrup delivers a eulogy for her husband Toronto Police officer Jeffrey Northrup at his funeral, in Toronto on Monday July 12, 2021.

    BLUE TEARS: City says goodbye to hero cop Jeffrey Northrup

  2. Many of the condolence messages on social media for slain Toronto Police Const. Jeffrey Northrup include the veteran's officer's badge number 99201.

    Condolences pour in for Toronto Police Const. Jeffrey Northrup

  3. Const. Jeffrey Northrup

    Friends and fellow volunteers fondly remember slain Toronto Const. Jeffrey Northrup

The police chief was more subdued — which would suggest he knows far more than the rest of us: “Today’s decision by the court is one step in what will be a long process.” he wrote on Twitter. “We will continue to participate fully & we will continue to offer support to Jeff’s family, friends & colleagues.”

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To grant bail, a judge has to be satisfied the accused will show up for trial and doesn’t pose a danger if released. But the third or “tertiary” ground is whether the crime is so serious that detention is necessary to maintain “confidence in the administration of justice.”

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The judge in this case obviously calculated that releasing Zameer on bail wouldn’t damage that public confidence – yet the leaders of both the province and the city, as well as many of their constituents, would certainly disagree.

If she had good reason to free a man accused of one of the most serious crimes that we have, surely we deserve to know what it is.

mmandel@postmedia.com

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