gavel on a wooden bench

A convicted fraudster has been granted bail pending an appeal of his conviction to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) on the grounds that he’s highly vulnerable to Covid-19 if forced to remain in jail.

The Court of Appeal for Ontario granted the application from Marshall Kazman, who was convicted in 2017 of fraud and money laundering. Kazman was ordered to be released from custody pending the SCC’s ruling on his application for leave to appeal his convictions or until Aug. 30 — whichever comes sooner.

According to the court’s decision, while bail is rarely granted before the SCC rules on an application for leave, in this case, Kazman argued that it was warranted due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The court agreed, finding that Kazman’s age and health make him more likely to require hospitalization if he contracts Covid-19.

“It is necessary for [Kazman] to practice social distancing to lower the risk of contracting Covid-19,” the court said. “Being in jail will make it difficult, if not impossible, to practice such social distancing.”

Moreover, the court noted that Covid-19 is a public health issue — not just an individual concern.

“In the prison context, a Covid-19 outbreak may turn into wider community spread as prison staff return home,” the court said. “As we are repeatedly hearing during this pandemic, the wider the spread, the greater the pressure will be for scarce medical resources.”

The court also noted that while Kazman’s crimes were serious, they were not violent. Kazman was convicted on five counts of fraud, one count of money laundering and one count of fraud in association with a criminal organization.

“The applicant was at the centre of a multi-layered, sophisticated scheme to fraudulently obtain small business loans from Canadian banks,” the court noted.

The court also found that Kazman doesn’t appear to pose a public safety risk or a flight risk. But it stressed that its ruling in this case doesn’t mean that Covid-19 becomes a get-out-of-jail-free card.

“I emphasize that this does not mean that bail will be granted in any case where Covid-19 is raised as an issue,” the court said, pointing out that in another recent case, bail was denied due to an applicant’s risk of reoffending.

“However, the particular circumstances of this case justify release,” the court said. “Given the applicant’s health issues amidst the Covid-19 situation, and the limited bail period sought, I am persuaded that the applicant’s detention is not necessary is in the public interest.”