The family of the Toronto man allegedly killed by teen girls in a “swarming” attack have denounced “flaws” in the criminal justice system, criticizing the opacity surrounding youth cases involving serious crimes.
Eight teenage girls have been charged with murder over the death of Ken Lee, who was repeatedly stabbed at a plaza near the main rail station in Canada’s largest city in the early hours of 18 December. Three of the girls are 13, three are 14 and two are 16.
Because of their age, none of the suspects can be identified under Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act and few details can be printed by media outlets because of publication bans.
“How is the Act protecting the public if we don’t know who these perpetrators are and why they are released on bail?” Lee’s family said in a statement.
One of the suspects was granted bail in late December and is permitted to return to school. The teen cannot contact her co-accused, possess any weapons or use a mobile phone. She must also remain within the province of Ontario. The remaining suspects are pleading their cases for bail this week and next week.
Toronto police have also linked the group of teens to a series of assaults at downtown subways stations that same evening.
“For serious crimes, these perpetrators should not have any privacy rights or bail,” the family said. “The public should be aware of who these individuals are to protect themselves. The perpetrators must be named in order to bring forth more victims, witness(es) and evidence.”
The family also criticized the court’s decision to permit at least one of the accused to return to school.
“As a parent, my question to the lawmakers who wrote the Youth Criminal Justice Act is how are you protecting my child if the perpetrator cannot be named and she could be in my child’s school or class?”
Following the murder of a police officer last month, Canada’s bail system has come under scrutiny, with political leaders and police chiefs calling for tighter conditions, especially on firearms offences, despite evidence that a majority of those out on bail – who are legally innocent – rarely commit new crimes.
Lee, who had spent years in the city’s shelter system, is believed to have been attacked after he tried to stop the group of teens from stealing a bottle of alcohol from a friend.
“Just note that Ken was a kind soul with a heart of gold … He was not in the system due to alcohol or drug abuse,” his family said. “He was a man with pride who had fallen and wanted to learn to stand up on his own knowing that he always had his family behind him.”