Is our justice system really neutral?

Recently I attended a bail hearing.

Dear Editor,

Recently I attended a bail hearing. Like our political system, arguments are made and questions are raised in court by one side and then challenged with arguments and questions from the other side. That is the function of our centuries old court system. Both the crown prosecutor and the lawyer for the defense hopefully try to present the best case possible.

Like our parliamentary system though, sometimes arguments move from specific details to a hypothesis around which the facts are built. Some of those hypotheses might offer a helpful framework around which a case can be built. Sometimes, though, the hypothesis might infer some kind of stereotype or prejudice. The latter is what I believe happened in the bail hearing I attended.

When a prosecutor infers that a defendant comes from an environment in which the incidence of violence is high and where gang activity is prevalent, something the defendant might have no control over, and argues that those are good reasons among others not to grant bail, does this suggest some kind of stereotyping or bias?

For me, this suggests social or racial profiling a controversial method of selecting social characteristics without evidence of wrong doing.

Although, fortunately, the judge acknowledged the facts and arguments of the defense and granted bail, I wonder how much bias occurs in our justice system where people are stereotyped based on income level, ethnicity and plainly just living on the wrong side of the tracks.

George Jason