Toronto Star

Nov. 22, 02:00 EDT

Hadley's bail `stringent' but still not enough

Jim Coyle
Toronto Star

THERE MUST BE days Frank Giordano heads off to work with something less than a dance in his step and a song in his heart.

Giordano is an assistant crown attorney in Durham Region. Come 8:30 most mornings, he's preparing for bail court, reviewing — while charmers ranging from shoplifters to murderers wait to be brought up from cells — police briefs against up to 50 accused.

Bail court is, as one cop recently put it, usually a zoo. Giordano has seen accused up for bail with records of more than 100 offences, others with more than a dozen previous breaches of bail. He's seen drug associates or barroom acquaintances of days trying to bail their buddies out.

In a courthouse in Oshawa, on the morning of Feb. 28, 2000, it was into his hands that a file involving Ralph Hadley fell.

Hadley, a 34-year-old postal worker estranged from his wife Gillian at the time, had been arrested three days earlier and charged with criminal harassment, breach of undertaking and breach of recognizance for hounding her by telephone and failing to stay away from her home. On Jan. 7 that year, he'd been charged with assaulting her after finding her in bed with another man. The previous year he'd been charged with criminal negligence in connection with the alleged abuse of his disabled stepson, but that charge was withdrawn when he accepted a peace bond.

As a coroner's jury heard yesterday, Frank Giordano was no old-school dinosaur who took domestic violence lightly. At 37, he's been a lawyer 10 years, attended seminars on the issue, has given lectures at others. The day Hadley was arrested he'd been speaking on family violence at a conference in Toronto.

On reviewing the police brief against Hadley, Giordano saw there had been violence in the past, though no convictions; that there had been threats, though these seemed to him to be in the nature of Hadley promising to distribute explicit pictures of his estranged wife rather than doing her physical harm.

He noted, too, the charging officer's opinion that, if released, Hadley would likely reoffend, possibly with "dire consequences." While this was of interest to him it was not evidence he could usefully put before a court.

Still, the package convinced him this was serious. He would not consent to Hadley's release. Hadley's lawyer was going to have to convince the court.

When the evidence was put before justice of the peace Brenna Brown, she heard of Ralph Hadley's marital breakdown, the assault, the new charges against him. She heard of his continued harassment. And Brown, too, took the case seriously.

She spoke of how marital splits can spiral into "profound tragedies." She said release was to be granted only when systems were put in place ensuring there was no likelihood of further offences.

Ralph Hadley was fortunate. He had a supportive family. He had a retired father at home who would provide supervision through the day, a job that kept him occupied all evening. He had a mother who impressed the court with her determination to monitor her son.

Christina and Gerald Hadley agreed to put up $5,000 surety. They undertook to ensure Ralph did not leave their house except under supervision. They undertook to drive him to and from work. They undertook to ensure he not phone Gillian. They undertook to pick up and return his infant son for visits. They undertook, if he breached any bail conditions, to call police.

There are good sureties and bad sureties, Frank Giordano said. The Hadleys seemed about as good as it gets.

On granting release, Brown said she was "not giving Mr. Hadley any opportunity to be on his own." He was to live with his parents, not to possess a weapon or a cellphone. He was not to enter Pickering except for court dates. He was put under virtual house arrest.

The bail was well above normal and the order "one of the most stringent I've seen in 10 years," said Giordano.

At day's end, Brown thanked court staff for yeoman work in the stifling heat of a balky furnace. Beyond that, nothing about the day seemed extraordinary, Giordano recalled. Every day, there are charges more serious, cases more hotly contested, accused more dangerous. And though it was after 6 p.m., he went off to phone Gillian Hadley, to advise her of Ralph's release.

It seems everyone had taken things seriously. It seems none of it was enough.

Four months later, Ralph Hadley broke into the home they once shared and shot Gillian to death, before turning the gun on himself.

Jim Coyle's column usually appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Copyright © 1996-2001. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited.