By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on September 20, 2023.
A 38-year-old man charged with numerous criminal offences, including arson and assaulting a peace officer, has been denied bail pending an appeal or resolution of his charges.
Justice Jerry LeGrandeur refused to release Joe Swart from remand custody following his bail hearing Tuesday in Lethbridge provincial court, then adjourned the matter to Sept. 29.
Zwart’s bail hearing was a reverse onus, which means the presumption is that the accused should be detained while awaiting trial unless defence can demonstrate to the court the accused should not be denied bail by showing there is no just cause for detention. Normally the onus is on the Crown to show why an accused person should not be granted bail.
Publishing evidence and details about the alleged offences as they were presented during the bail hearing are prohibited by a publication ban.
In addition to arson and two counts of assaulting a peace officer, Zwart is charged with two counts each of mischief and failure to comply with release orders, and one count of possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.
The charges stem from an incident at a northside home where a man armed himself with weapons, refused to leave and set the house on fire.
Police reported that at about 1:50 p.m. on May 30 of this year they responded to a report that a man was threatening a woman inside a home in the 600 block of Stafford Drive North. The woman was able to leave the home after police arrived, but when confronted by police the man brandished two hatchets and began to approach the officers. He refused to drop the weapons and would not leave the residence.
Members of the Critical Incident Team made multiple attempts to contact the suspect, who began damaging property and throwing objects out a window. A short time later smoke and flames could be seen inside the home, but Lethbridge firefighters were able to extinguish the fire and prevent it from spreading to a neighbouring home.
While firefighters fought the blaze, the man exited the home and was apprehended by police service dog Robby. He was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
Police reported the man did not live in the home but had been allowed to stay there temporarily.
The home was badly damaged by the fire and uninhabitable, but no one was injured and there was no damage to neighbouring properties, which were evacuated during the incident. Police also closed public access to Dave Elton Park as a safety precaution.
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