Last week, a man crashed a bus into a Laval daycare centre, killing and injuring young children. At this time, it is not so easy to debunk the legal issues related to this tragedy: here are a few thoughts.
If the act was intentional, does that mean the accused person will be found guilty?
The prosecutor must prove that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is because our criminal justice system is based on the idea that people who are accused of a crime are innocent until proven guilty. This principle is called the “presumption of innocence”.
Beyond the act itself, in criminal law, judges and juries also analyze the person’s “intent”. The way they do this depends on the crime. And sometimes, the whole debate in court revolves around whether the act was intentional.
Does this mean the person will go to prison?
Being found guilty of a crime and receiving a sentence, such as prison, are two different things. People found guilty of the same crime could receive different sentences depending on the circumstances.
Mental health issues were raised. Could the accused person escape justice?
It’s not that simple. First, a mental health condition must be proven. Only a psychiatric evaluation can prove the psychological state of an accused person. This is what helps the court make a decision. It may take some time to get an expert opinion.
Mental health can play different roles in the judicial process. For example, the accused person may be found unfit to stand trial. The judicial process is then put on hold and the accused may be forced to undergo medical treatment.
Another example is that the accused person may argue that they’re not criminally responsible due to a mental illness. But this does not necessarily mean that they will be acquitted, even if the defence works. The person will neither be guilty nor acquitted.
Can the names of the accused, the victims and the families be published on social media?
Yes, the criminal justice process is public. In theory, the identity of an adult accused of a crime can be made known. But, a judge can decide that the accused’s name will remain confidential. This is called a “publication ban”. In this case, the witnesses’ and victims’ identities also remain confidential.
Sharing on social media is not trivial, especially when such a tragedy occurs. It’s important to remain cautious, especially when it comes to the photos of the victims. It is also necessary to be respectful of the privacy and wishes of the people involved, when they are known.
Will the victims’ families be compensated?
It depends. It’s possible, because for the same event, there can be a criminal procedure and a civil procedure. The victims’ families, the staff of the daycare or bus company or the front line (police department, social workers or hospital staff) could ask for money in a civil court.
There are also government compensation programs that may be able to assist victims and their loved ones.
Does this event affect you in any way?
Mental Health hotline: 1-833-648-2910