Tamara Lich has once again been released on bail after a Superior Court judge overturned a lower court decision Tuesday afternoon and sent the accused “Freedom Convoy” leader home to Alberta, bringing a swift conclusion to her second successful bail review.
Lich, 49, waved to supporters in the courtroom before signing her latest release order, which contains many of the same conditions of her prior release, but with new clarifying language around some of the contested conditions.
Superior Court Justice Andrew Goodman sided with Lich and her lawyers Lawrence Greenspon and Eric Granger in his ruling Tuesday, which came after two full days of hearings in Lich’s second bail review — and fifth time before a judge — since her arrest and initial detention.
“Take those shackles off,” Goodman instructed the court security officer after telling Lich she would be freed on conditions.
The judge cautioned Lich to abide by the conditions of her release, which include a strict non-communication order with fellow accused “Freedom Convoy” leaders.
That condition was amended and clarified Tuesday to allow an exception while “in the presence of defence counsel or civil legal counsel.”
This is the second time a Superior Court judge has heard the Crown’s evidence against Lich in a bail review and ordered Lich released from jail.
Superior Court Justice John Johnston also ordered Lich released from jail on March 7, overturning the Ontario court decision that had initially denied Lich bail following her arrest on Feb. 17.
Lich was then brought back before Superior Court Justice Kevin Phillips after the Crown alleged she broke two conditions of that release order — one when she accepted an invitation to a gala hosted by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, and another when she appeared in a social media post as the “brand ambassador” for a trucker-themed “freedom pendant.”
Lich was then re-arrested and charged with breaching her bail conditions after attending that June 16 gala in Toronto, where she was seen having a brief congratulatory exchange and posing for a group photo with fellow convoy organizer Tom Marazzo. Justice of the Peace Paul Harris revoked Lich’s bail and sent her back to jail in mid-July.
Goodman found several “errors of law” in that decision, however, and said those errors were “compounded” by inflammatory statements from Harris when he suggested Lich adopted an “absolutely ridiculous” interpretation of the non-contact order.
Goodman performed his own analysis of the evidence from the gala and found the breach to be “tenuous.” The seasoned judge said those are matters that could be explored once the case reaches trial rather than during the bail phase.
“The Justice must be careful not to play the role of trial judge or jury (during the bail phase),” Goodman said.
Those matters “must be analyzed at trial, not at the release hearing.”
Goodman also sided with the defence on the contentious argument over the strength of the Crown’s case against Lich, the gravity of the offences and the potential for a lengthy prison term upon conviction.
The four judges who had previously heard the evidence against Lich returned with varying opinions on whether she could serve significant time for the mischief, intimidation and related counselling charges she faces.
“Two (lower-court judges) opined that the Crown’s case was strong,” Goodman said.
“However, two Superior Court colleagues have found that the strength of the Crown’s case is subject to challenges. I share that view. The Crown’s case cannot be considered as strong, although it may be persuasive at trial.”
Goodman said he found it “highly unlikely” that Lich, with no criminal background and no allegations of violence, would face a potentially lengthy term of imprisonment.
Apart from the exchange at the gala, there has been no evidence of any further breaches in the four months since her arrest, Goodman said, while expressing confidence in Lich’s court-approved surety.
Lich spent an accumulated 49 days in custody at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre since her initial arrest, and Goodman on Tuesday agreed with Greenspon’s arguments that Lich may have already spent more time in pretrial custody “as a presumptively innocent person” than she would have served if convicted and sentenced at trial.
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