TORONTO – The man accused of killing a Toronto police officer was granted bail Wednesday, prompting the Ontario premier to call on the justice system “to get its act together” – a comment that angered lawyers.
Umar Zameer faces one count of first-degree murder in the death of Const. Jeffrey Northrup.
The 55-year-old officer died on July 2 after being struck by a vehicle in what investigators have called a deliberate act as he was responding to a report of a robbery in a parking lot at Toronto City Hall.
Zameer’s lawyer, Nader Hasan, said his client’s family was pleased with the outcome of Wednesday’s bail hearing.
“They welcome him home,” Hasan said in an email. “I know it comes amidst a tragedy for Officer Northrup’s family and again express my condolences.”
Hasan said the standard publication ban on bail hearings prevents him from discussing how the court reached its decision and the evidence presented in court.
“We have advised the court and the Crown of our intention to seek to vary the terms of the publication ban so that the public will better understand this case and why the court reached this decision,” he said.
“When an individual charged with a serious crime has been granted bail, the public is inevitably curious about the reason. We can only respond that there is much more to this case and to this tragic situation than meets the eye.”
The first-degree murder charge against Zameer has not been proven in court.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford weighed in on the bail decision on Twitter.
“This is beyond comprehension,” Ford said. “It’s completely unacceptable that the person charged for this heinous crime is now out on bail. Our justice system needs to get its act together and start putting victims and their families ahead of criminals.”
Dan Brown, vice-president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, said the premier’s comments undermine the public’s confidence in the justice system.
“It’s offensive that the premier of Ontario thinks that the presumption of innocence doesn’t apply simply because the victim in this case is a police officer,” Brown said.
“We have a very experienced judge consider all the evidence in the case, including evidence that the premier knows nothing about, and she applied the appropriate legal tests and determined that this individual ought to be released pending his trial.”
Toronto police said they remain saddened by the loss of Northrup.
“Today’s decision by the court is one step in what will be a long judicial process,” the force said in a statement. “We will continue to participate fully and we will continue to offer support to Jeff’s family, friends and colleagues.”
Several thousand police officers from more than 50 services across the country paid tribute to Northrup at his funeral in mid-July.