How do you prosecute your former boss?

The case against Michael Bryant tests Ontario’s judicial system


090904_brayntAs Ontario’s attorney general, a post he held until 2007, Michael Bryant was responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the province’s justice system, a job which included overseeing all criminal prosecutions in Ontario. But after an accident that left a Toronto cyclist dead, Bryant now finds himself on the other side of the fence. The one-time wunderkind of provincial politics is facing charges of dangerous driving causing death, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison, and criminal negligence causing death, for which he could face life in prison.

Bryant is, of course, no ordinary defendant, and the case against him promises to be one of the most highly-scrutinized in the province’s history. The provincial Ministry of the Attorney General usually refers cases involving the prosecution of people working within the legal system to what it calls the Crown Law Office-Criminal. The Crown Law Office-Criminal was set up in the early 1980s to handle the province’s appeals, as well as some of the province’s more complex criminal cases, like stock manipulation or organized crime cases. Its mandate also covers the prosecution of people like police officers, judges, prosecutors, court reporters, and anyone else considered a participant in the “administration of justice.” The problem in Bryant’s case is that the office’s prosecutors are former employees of his—he may have even hired some of them—and the mere perception of conflict of interest risks tainting the trial.

If Bryant is to receive a fair trial, says Ed Ratushny, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and the former president of the Canadian section of International Commission of Jurists, “the preoccupation of the police and of the prosecution is to make sure that in reality and in perception, this accused is treated in the same way that any other accused would be treated.” That’s where Richard Peck comes in. Peck just happened to be in town on the night Bryant was involved in the accident that killed cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard. (The prominent B.C. defense lawyer was in Brampton on Monday evening for a meeting regarding the prosecution of an OPP officer charged with corruption.) The next morning, Peck met with Toronto police to discuss the charges to be laid against the former Ontario attorney general. He was eventually brought on to prosecute the case.

Though the case against Bryant is said to be unprecedented, the processes involved in his prosecution appear likely to mirror those involved in the case against Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien. As mayor, O’Brien was in charge of the city’s police force, which is responsible for deciding which charges to lay against a suspect. Further complicating matters, the influence-peddling charges filed against him involved officials at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels of government. As a result, an outside lawyer from a private firm in Toronto was charged with prosecuting the case against him. (O’Brien was acquitted.) Peck is expected to play a similar role in the case against Bryant.

Now that Peck has been hired to act as an independent prosecutor, the second part of the equation in Bryant’s case involves finding a trial judge. Ontario’s provincial court judges are appointed by the Attorney General from a ranked list of its recommendations compiled by an advisory committee. During his time in office, Bryant made dozens of appointments to the provincial court. But finding an impartial judge may not be much of a challenge given the seriousness of the charges against Bryant. In fact, Ratushny doesn’t expect Bryant’s case to end up before a provincial judge. Based on the evidence made public so far, “my inclination would be to want to go before a jury,” he says, meaning Bryant’s case is likely to end in Ontario Superior Court, for whom judges are selected and paid for by the federal government. The only time at which Bryant is likely to face a provincial judge is at his preliminary hearing. A Bryant appointee, according to Ratushny, would likely step aside from the case.

Still, because of his former job of ensuring that criminals end up behind bars, the case against Bryant represents a unique challenge to Ontario’s judicial system. The province’s citizens will no doubt be paying close attention to how the legal community treats one of its own.


How do you prosecute your former boss?

  1. Let's see…some of Bryant's more recent laws were prosecuted on a reverse-onus basis. Why don't we start there?

  2. Mr.Bryant is a perfectionist and his image must remain the untouchable brilliant Bryant. He tried to fool around with the laws of physics and killed somebody doing that. He is for me far from brilliant and should have studied a real science in University to understand you can't fool Nature. Now we can look forward for a fair trial with humane invented laws by people like Mr. Bryant….yeah right.

  3. The justice system is a joke,he will will not go to jail.Dream on.The trial will drag on for two years.He will probably enter a plea and get a suspended sentence because he has a family.He will apologize after that.Then he could be back in politics and just say 'people make mistakes,I am only human'.End of story

  4. 1)Will the special Prosecutor be prosecuting everyone in Ontario who is "Substantially Similar" to Mr Bryant?

    2)Do "Substantially Similar" people need to comply with the restrictions placed upon Mr Bryant as a condition of bail?

    and last but not least

    3)In the Interest of Public Safety are the Ontario Liberals going to ban Saab Convertibles and "Substantially Similar" automobiles?

  5. There is still case innocent did convicted. There is case criminal did get away. The justice system is not a joke but a way to give you a fairer justice. One of the problem is Michael Being a Liberal Provincial executive, is bound to have poltical emotion from people who are supporting different ideology. It's unfortunate that Darcy Allan Sheppard died a result and does not mean that Michael Bryan can not have a fair trail. Police has charged Michael with dangerous driving but also looking into the possibility of Darcy's influence on the wheeling. Let's give the ontario judicial system the opportunity to prove it works for the people.

    • No the Ontario Justice System is definitely a joke.
      Just ask this gentleman

      or this young man

      or any of the other new Ontario "criminals" who have been brought before the Joke of a Justice System BECAUSE of the criminal above(alleged) who IS going to get a fair trial BECAUSE of who he is.
      He`s getting EXACTLY what he took away from other people….the PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE.

      Yeah and LET`S not forget about Mr Sheppard.
      He`s the victim here NOT Michael Bryant although his "handlers" are certainly doing their best to portray him as a victim.

      • FYI: on the second article posted, the owner should have sued the vet clinic for notifiying authorities of the 'pitbull'. They had no right to release his info, and were in direct violation of the Privacy Act. I completely disagree with Ontario's 'pitbull' ban, but we need to fight back with all the legal power we have. This would at least prevent the vet clinic from 'tattling' on other dog owners in the future.
        I used to work at a vet clinic, and our hands were tied if we wanted to call authorities over very obvious signs of animal abuse, clients would even admit to us they hurt their dogs! But vets do not have the same rights to call the police in an animal abuse case that, say, a pediatrician would have in a child abuse case. While I don't agree with how the law works, this is how it does, and the owner shoudl take advantage of that.

  6. I have little or no sympathy for that loon who decided to get into a wrestling match with someone driving a car. He was drunk and belligerant and should have been arrested during his encounter with the police a couple of hours earlier. Bryant is lucky he has the wherewithall to hire enough legal help to fend off the holier than thou bike lobby who think they are above the law because they are "saving the planet". If Joe Lunchbucket had been the driver of the car he would be screwed as nitwits like Chistie Blatchford have essentially said bike drivers should be allowed to do anything, anytime, anywhere without consequence. Sorry Chistie, you can't suspend the laws of physics. By the way, I know nothing of Bryant and had never heard of him before this incident. To quote a radio host in this town "Beware of people with little to lose who want to take you down with them". It appears that's exactly what this lifelong loser on a bike is about to do.

  7. You haven`t heard of Bryant before?
    He`s the "loon" who lied to the Public and passed legislation which has destroyed countless lives including the lives of Military families who are being prevented from coming home to Ontario.
    He`s the "nitwit" who passed Legislation which says that "certain" Ontario citizens are presumed guilty and have to PROVE their innocence.
    Why don`t we presume that HE`s guilty and let him PROVE his innocence.

    Bryant is the lifelong loser.
    It just took Karma a while to catch up with him.

    Are you getting it yet Michael Bryant?
    Some of the people who are in Court because of you are spending every cent they have and then some attempting to prove their innocence.

    R.I.P Darcy Sheppard.

    Hopefully Mr Bryant will R.I.Jail for a while.
    I have no sympathy for someone who uses a car as a weapon.
    Maybe Mr Bryant can sign up for some anger management classes while he`s waiting for trial.

    • I guess Mr Sheppard will not be needing those anger management courses now, which he could have used more than anyone else here, it seems. As I said, you cannot suspend the laws of physics. As for not knowing who Mr Bryant was before this incident, here's a hint, the whole world doesn't revolve around Ontario politics. I do find it strange that this one man was able to pass legislation in Ontario that contravenes the Federal Charter of Rights. You would have to change the charter to do that. I would love to know how "military families," of all people, could be prevented from moving to Ontario. Once again, the Charter assures freedom of movement though all provinces for any citizen. Also his legislative shenanigans, whatever they are, should have nothing to do with facts in evidence during a trial which will be forth coming, and which will be under intense media scrutny, as it should be. That's what trials in this country are based on, not weather Bryant is a nice guy or not. Cheers

      • Think of this next time someone comes home in a casket down the Highway of heroes

        They can give their lives fighting for Democracy in another Country,they just can`t live in Ontario if they DO make it home thanks to Mr Bryant.

  8. would prosecute any former boss the same way as reservation chiefs councils, lawyers from upper canada and tekkies and other egotistic insider criminals involved in a grand fiasco against the government invented to benefit a greedy bunch should be prosecuted and brought to justice!!

  9. Michael Bryant should be tried just an any other. He should be ordered to appear in court everytime the lawyers attend. Why is he different from any other criminal. They can whitewash this all they want and bring in whatever Judge they want…….it is a two-tier system and a Judge from his home province of BC isn't going to be any fairer to the cyclists family than an Ontario Judge would have been. Well if nothing else comes of this, I think the family should sue him for wrongfull death under the civil court just like they did to OJ Simpson. At least they'll get something. He did deliberately ram into the bike and drag him into obstacles as the videos show..