Judge denies Tuxedo family’s request to end ’embarrassing’ and ‘disruptive’ police curfew checks

A Winnipeg couple living in the affluent Winnipeg neighbourhood of Tuxedo learned that the criminal justice system applies equally to all those accused and out on bail despite their family’s financial circumstances.

A 21-year-old man accused of multiple offences, including manufacturing 3D-printed guns, applied for a bail review in Manitoba’s Court of King’s Bench. In support of their son, his parents filed affidavits on Aug. 10 in which they asked that police curfew checks on their son be dropped because they are disruptive and embarrassing.

Daniel Bell, 21, is charged with numerous offences including manufacturing 3D-printed guns, possessing firearms and body armour without a licence.

Bell is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in court. His parents said in an affidavit they have been told it could take at least 18 months for their son’s case to work its way through the courts.

Bell was arrested in June and spent nine days in remand before being let out on bail. His parents, who are his sureties, put up half a million dollars to secure his release. They also paid $10,000 cash and say Bell put up another $50,000.

“That alone was a great punishment for a decent and good middle-class young man with no prior offences, but since being released on bail to live with us, Daniel has been repeatedly traumatized by curfew checks at our home day and night,” wrote Bell’s father in an affidavit to the court.

At a bail review hearing on Aug. 21, the Crown argued the family was attempting to use their privilege to request a “different level of justice,” and the judge agreed.

“The fact that he’s gotten bail in my view is quite remarkable,” said Justice Herbert Rempel.

As part of his release, Bell has an absolute curfew, meaning he must be home at all times. He’s only allowed to leave while accompanied by one or both of his parents, unless he’s at work or university. He must answer the door or phone when police conduct curfew checks.

The family says since Bell was released on bail, police have showed up at their home 22 times over a period of 53 days. On some of those occasions, police knocked on their door in the middle of the night while they were asleep.

“We have never experienced anything as terrifying, and it has had a terrible effect on all of us. My husband and Daniel work, and it is so unfair for them not to get a proper night’s sleep,” wrote Bell’s mother in her affidavit.

The family says police have come to their home in the middle of the night, shining flashlights in their windows and banging on the door. 

“This is an extreme violation of our human rights, and it is cruel and abusive,” the father wrote in his affidavit, adding the police actions amounted to being “terrorized.”

Curfew checks ‘minor inconvenience’: Justice

Justice Rempel said if this case would have been heard in his court, he would have denied Bell’s release in the first place. 

“I would say to Mr. Bell you are extremely fortunate to be out. The fact that you have the inconvenience of curfew checks and disrupted sleep I think is just a minor inconvenience that you’re going to have to deal with in the circumstances,” said Justice Rempel.

The family said in affidavits that the police curfew checks are happening at all hours of the day and night and they are worried what their neighbours must think.

“This is an extreme violation of our human rights, and it is cruel and abusive. What must neighbours think of this and what might be happening at our house to warrant this,” wrote the dad in an affidavit to the court. 

“Our reputation on our street is being severely jeopardized,” he wrote.

The photo is taken at night. You can see a black and while Winnipeg police cruiser car parked on the street. There is also a police SVU parked in a neighbours driveway.
Daniel Bell included this photo in his Aug. 15 affidavit to the court. He says on July 5, police conducted a curfew check at 2:15 a.m. and parked one of their vehicles in a neighbours driveway ‘with lights shining at their house.’ (Manitoba Court of King’s Bench)

Bell’s mother said it’s alarming to have police knocking on the door at 4 a.m., and shining flashlights in the home. She said as productive citizens living in Tuxedo, the police presence is causing tremendous suspicion and fear among her neighbours.

“We have always worked to have an upstanding reputation, and we are devastated and humiliated to have police repeatedly coming to our home,” said Bell’s mother’s affidavit.

Impact wasn’t expected: lawyer

At a bail review hearing Monday, their lawyer Chad Sutherland said as part of Bell’s release, he is to be at home at all times unless he’s at work or out with his parents.

“It wasn’t anticipated that police would be checking with such frequency that it would impact their life in such a massive way,” said Sutherland.

Justice Herbert Rempel asked “isn’t that like a get out of bail free card?”

Sutherland said the family has a lot on the line and will ensure Bell is in compliance with his conditions.

“There has to be some ability for the Bell family to have a normal life without these constant checks,” said Sutherland.

Bell was arrested as part of Project Reproduction, an inter-provincial 3D-printed firearms investigation led by the Montreal Integrated Arms Trafficking Team. The police release at the time said investigators identified an adult male in Winnipeg believed to be involved in the online purchase of 3D-printed firearms parts. 

On June 20, Winnipeg police executed a search warrant at Bell’s Sturgeon Creek condo and seized a number of items including 3D-printed firearms, ammunition, 3D-printed hard knuckles, hard body armour and about $570.00 worth of psilocybin.

WATCH | Untraceable ghost guns a growing threat in Canada:

Untraceable ghost guns a growing threat in Canada

8 months ago

Duration 9:58

A CBC News analysis uncovers a rising number of untraceable, 3D-printed ghost guns turning up in Canadian cities. Reporter Ellen Mauro sets out to uncover what the threat looks like and asks why more isn’t being done to keep them off the streets.

Bail conditions very restrictive: family

The mother’s affidavit said the conditions of her son’s release are very restrictive as he can’t go out without at least one parent unless he’s at work or university. 

“He is 21 years old and is unable to have a social life due to his conditions. This is punitive for a young person of 21 years,” Bell’s mom wrote.

She said her son hasn’t been convicted of a crime and sees “no good reason why he should be subjected to being hounded by police on a regular basis … as well, my husband and I do not deserve to be punished and frightened, and we have a right to our privacy.” 

Winnipeg police couldn’t comment specifically on this case but say in general there is no specific number or frequency allotted for police curfew checks.

“This can vary based on severity of the crime and the danger to the public, e.g. violent offenders and high-risk sex offenders,” Constable Dani McKinnon said in an email Thursday.

She said specialized units like Guns and Gangs, and the High Risk Sex Offender Units conduct regular checks to not only monitor, but deter criminal behaviours.

“The onus is on the person with the court order to inform their family or other residents they share a home with that they may receive frequent phone calls and/or door knocks from police,” said McKinnon. 

In his affidavit, Bell’s father said police checks are unnecessary in this case.

He said while he and his wife live in an upscale neighbourhood, they aren’t wealthy people. They worked hard, he said, and saved all their lives to buy their home four years ago. He said they aren’t about to lose that or destroy their retirement by breaking their agreement with the court. He and his wife begged the court to stop police from tormenting them.

“Daniel is the one who is being harmed, threatened, hounded and punished, as are my wife and myself,” wrote the dad. 

Bail for these charges rare: Crown

The crown contested the application to remove curfew checks saying Bell is lucky to be out on bail in the first place.

“Mr. Bell is one of the only individuals charged with manufacturing 3D-printed firearms that has ever been released, and that is a reflection of the significant bail plan,” Crown attorney Vanessa Gama said in court during the bail review hearing.

Gama said an 18-year-old charged with similar offences was granted bail, but the crown’s office filed for a bail review and had it revoked. Gama says in Bell’s case, the large surety is the only reason she has not filed for a bail review to have it revoked.

“That’s a significant bail plan, that’s the most significant I’ve ever seen,” said Gama.

She says it’s the police’s responsibility to make sure an accused is complying with the conditions of release as ordered by the court. She asked the judge what the public would think if the Bells were successful in their application to have those checks removed. 

“With all due respect, that would bring the administration of justice into disrepute, if people who are privileged and because of their economic situation or where they live got a different form of justice then everyone else,” said Gama.

The parents say this is all a misunderstanding and maintain Bell hasn’t done anything wrong.

“Daniel has already been punished disproportionately to what the police and prosecutor claim he has done. There has been no public incident, no threat, no assault by Daniel,” wrote the dad.

“We ask the prosecutor to show us who Daniel has harmed. Show us who he has threatened,” he said.

Gama told the court 3D-printed guns are crime guns because they are untraceable.

In a statement to CBC, Sutherland said he and his firm “denounce any abuse of power actioned by the state which includes a number of our office’s recent cases where police checks have become harassing and were later reduced by courts.”

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