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Police close off an area at the Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall in Toronto, June 2, 2012.MARK BLINCH/Reuters

When the shots were fired at the Eaton Centre Saturday night, Christopher Husbands was supposed to be under house arrest for a previous sexual-assault charge.

How, then, was he out? And what assurance does the public have that an individual, already charged and under house arrest, isn't roaming free?

In Canada, the justice system relies on "good faith" that the surety will guarantee the alleged offender sticks to his or her bail conditions, Ontario assistant Crown attorney Hank Goody said.

"It's pretty much the highest level of security short of being in jail," Mr. Goody said, adding that detentions are usually used if the offence is of a violent nature, or the person is believed likely to commit another crime or not show up at his or her next court date.

Although firm statistics aren't readily available, Mr. Goody said house arrests are increasingly being used as a bail condition.

"It's the nature of the system," Mr. Goody said. "As a general rule, courts don't like to detain people because they still are presumed innocent until proven guilty. And we don't keep people in custody if there is a reasonable alternative."

A surety will put down money that they will lose if the person charged does not obey bail conditions. While ankle bracelets are rarely used, Mr. Goody said the person under house arrest has to present himself within five minutes of police knocking on their door, or be detained.

In the Eaton Centre shooting case, Mr. Husbands has been remanded in custody until Aug. 15, when he will appear by video. He will be charged with one count of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder. On the previous sexual-assault charge, he will return to court June 25.