A major drug bust with suspects known to police, 2 stand offs just weeks apart involving the same man with a violent past.
A number of alleged crimes in Medicine Hat lately are being committed by repeat offenders. That has some now questioning whether the legal system in Alberta is broken.
In late December, the police tactical team surrounded a house in the Flats after being called to an assault with a weapon.
Only 53 days later, police surround another home in the Flats as another standoff ensues. This after a lengthy crime spree across Southern Alberta comes to an end.
The person charged in both incidents is Chris Ashby from Medicine Hat. According to police, the 33 year old has a lengthy criminal record involving violence.
Medicine Hat Police Chief Andy McGrogan says repeat offenders being released while on bail, is an issue on the radar of Police Chiefs across the province.
Chief McGrogan says, “we and the provincial government are looking very seriously at our bail hearing process right now. It’s a concern for everybody at every level.”
But could all of this have been avoided.? Before the December standoff, Ashby’s bail conditions from a previous charge stated he was not allowed to possess a weapon.
According to Police, Ashby broke his bail condition after he was charged with assault with a weapon following the incident in December.
So what did a provincial court judge do? Despite breaching previous conditions, the Judge released Ashby on bail once again, despite Crown Council’s objections.
Mayor Ted Clugston is blunt in his criticism saying the justice system is broken. Clugston says, “I think our police are doing a fantastic job attempting to contain these issues and arrest the instigators. But then they are right back on the streets and that I think the public finds that extremely frustrating.”
But it’s not just Ashby, a major ALERT drug bust just this week saw 7 people arrested, 6 of whom were known to police. All of them were released on bail.
Only last week, 43 year old Wayne Shrubsall was charged with dealing the deadly drug Fentanyl. He was arrested while out on bail after Police rounded up 12 suspect meth dealers back in June.
Last September, Adam Zinger and Christina Fidler were released on bail for drugs and weapons offenses here in Medicine Hat. They were rearrested weeks later for more alleged drug dealing offenses by police in Swift Current.
It’s a frustrating situation for police and a costly issue for taxpayers in Medicine Hat. Chief McGrogan says, “95% of the community pays for us to police 5% of the community. It’s a very expensive process when you have someone that has really ran afoul of the law.”
Legal expert Steven Penney says judges do make mistakes but so do police in compiling the information given to the Crown during bail hearings.
Penney is a Professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta and says the problem is not that the system is broken, the problem is the system is overwhelmed.
“Police have heavy work loads and the courts are extremely busy. There are always going to be mistakes that are made,” added Penney
Police Chiefs across Alberta are asking the province to review the bail hearing process.
Many people would like to force judges to account for their decisions in public but legal experts agree, that would comprise judicial independence. It’s an answer some Albertans may not be happy with.
As for what to do to keep repeat offenders behind bars? Experts are unanimous, there are no easy answers.
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