May 30th, 2024

Zameer acquittal demonstrates why politicians should keep quiet on bail, lawyer says

By The Canadian Press on April 23, 2024.

Umar Zameer during a press conference following his not guilty verdict, in Toronto, Sunday, April 21, 2024. Boris Bytensky, president of the Criminal Lawyers' Association, says Zameer's case is a teachable moment for politicians who spoke out about the decision to grant him bail. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

OTTAWA – A leading voice for criminal lawyers in Canada says police and political leaders need to learn the consequences of weighing in on bail decisions.

And Boris Bytensky, president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, says the case of Umar Zameer offers a perfect teachable moment.

A jury found Zameer not guilty Sunday in the death of a Toronto police officer who was run over in an underground parking garage in July 2021.

Zameer was granted bail some months later – a decision that drew public criticism from Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor John Tory.

But it wasn’t until the jury was sequestered last week that Canadians learned just how weak the case against Zameer had turned out to be.

Bytensky says it only harms the reputation of the justice system and the presumption of innocence when politicians weigh in on bail decisions.

He said Zameer’s case provides an opportunity to better educate Canadians about how the system works and what “presumed innocent” really means.

After the jury’s verdict came down Sunday, the judge went so far as to apologize to Zameer for what he’d been forced to endure.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2024.

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