Woman Found Not Criminally Responsible in Fatal PATH Stabbing

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Rohinie Bisesar (“Bisesar”), accused of fatally stabbing 28-year-old Rosemarie Junor (“Junor”) in a Shoppers Drug Mart in Toronto’s underground PATH system in 2015, has been found not criminally responsible.

Bisesar pleaded not guilty last week to the first-degree murder charge. Bisesar’s lawyers maintained that she was not criminally responsible due to her mental illness. Her trial was held before a judge only.

Ontario Superior Court Justice John McMahon ruled that he was satisfied, on a balance of probabilities, that Bisesar, who suffered from schizophrenia, “was incapable of knowing the killing was morally and legally wrong”.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On December 11, 2015, while shopping at a make-up counter beneath Bay and Wellington streets, Junor was fatally stabbed. She was taken by ambulance to hospital where she succumbed to her injuries.

The unprovoked attack took a mere 54 seconds and was recorded on the store’s surveillance video. Bisesar walked into the pharmacy and stabbed Junor once in the heart with a small knife purchased at a dollar store. She did not speak to Junor during the attack, placed the knife on the counter following the stabbing, and immediately left the store.

According to Bisesar’s lawyers, she was experiencing hallucinations that took control of her physically. A forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Ian Swayze, the only witness at the trial, gave evidence that at the time of the incident Bisesar was experiencing a psychiatric breakdown due to untreated schizophrenia.

According to Dr. Swayze’s report, Bisesar was hearing voices in her head. The voice commanded her to buy a knife, and walk into the Shoppers Drug Mart. Dr. Swayze wrote that “The voice and movements raised my hand, pushed forward … it was like the knife was sticking to my hand and couldn’t be dropped.”

As a result of the not criminally responsible verdict, Bisesar remains in a secure wing of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto until an Ontario Review Board hearing is held.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE NOT CRIMINALLY RESPONSIBLE?

According to section 16 of the Criminal Code, a person is not criminally responsible for something that he/she did if they were suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the offence, and:

  • the mental disorder made it impossible for him/her to understand the nature and quality of what he/she did; or
  • the mental disorder made it impossible for him/her to understand that what he/she did was morally wrong.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT FOR BISESAR?

Bisesar’s release is controlled by the Ontario Review Board (“Board”). This is an independent tribunal that oversees and annually reviews every person found to be not criminally responsible or unfit to stand trial for criminal offences due to a mental health condition.

The Board consists of a five person panel, which includes a psychiatrist, a lawyer, a mental health professional, a member of the public, and a Chairperson.  The Chairperson must either be a practicing or retired judge or someone who can be appointed to a judicial office (i.e. a lawyer who has 10 years of experience).  All members of the Board are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor.

The Board hears evidence from the individual and his/her lawyer, the Crown prosecutor, a psychiatrist, and possibly others that may include a family member or other specialist. The hospital facility also provides a report to the Board detailing the individual’s history and progress.

The Board’s decisions are made by a majority vote. The most important concern of the Board is whether the individual poses a significant risk to the safety of the public. If the individual is found to be a significant risk, the Board will consider other factors. The most important being the protection of public from dangerous persons, the re-integration of the person into society, and the liberty interests of the person.

The Board reviews the disposition annually to determine whether changes need to be made depending on the progress made by the individual. The Board can make one of three dispositions:

  • Detention Order: The individual should continue to be detained in the hospital and makes a decision regarding whether the individual stays at a minimum, medium or maximum secure unit and what access the individual would have to the community;
  • Conditional Discharge: The individual is allowed to live in the community while subject to certain requirements (i.e. having to report to a hospital, refrain from using alcohol or drugs, reporting any change in address, or refrain from contact with certain individual); or
  • Absolute Discharge: The individual is granted a full release with no further supervision.

Victims can provide victim impact statements at the annual Board hearings. The statements do not have an impact on the decision the Board makes, unlike at a sentencing hearing. The Board’s decision must be based on the individual’s current level of risk to public safety.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Convicted Drunk Driver Marco Muzzo Could Receive Parole Next Month

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Marco Muzzo (“Muzzo”), an Ontario man convicted of impaired driving in a 2015 accident that killed three children and their grandfather, is scheduled to appear for a parole hearing on November 7, 2018.

Muzzo is seeking day parole and is eligible to apply for full parole in May 2019 and statutory release on June 18, 2022.

The children’s parents, Jennifer Neville-Lake and Ed Lake, plan to attend the parole hearing at the Beaver Creek Institution in Gravenhurst.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On September 27, 2015, Muzzo had returned home on a private jet from his bachelor party in Miami and picked up his Jeep SUV from the airport parking lot. He was speeding when he drove through a stop sign and plowed into the driver’s side of a minivan transporting the Neville-Lake family.

Muzzo was driving at least 120 km/h on a 60 km/h road at the time of the accident. Muzzo’s blood-alcohol content ranged from 0.19 to 0.25 per cent at the time of the crash, which is more than twice the legal limit in Ontario. Police officers at the scene reported that Muzzo smelled of alcohol, his eyes were glassy, he used the car to keep his balance, he was unable to understand instructions from the officers, and he urinated on himself.

Muzzo pleaded guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death and two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm for the crash that killed nine-year-old Daniel Neville-Lake, his five-year-old brother Harrison, his two-year-old sister Milly, and the children’s 65-year-old Grandfather, Gary Neville.

Neriza Neville, the children’s grandmother, and Josefina Frias, the children’s great-grandmother, were also injured in the accident, but survived the crash.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Michelle Fuerst sentenced Muzzo to 10-years in prison and banned him from driving for 12 years after he gets out of prison. This was the harshest sentence in Canadian history for an impaired driver without a prior record.

Justice Fuerst intended for her sentence to send a message to deter others from committing the same crime. She considered the aggravating factors of Muzzo choosing to drive drunk and that his prior speeding convictions reflected an “irresponsible attitude toward the privilege of driving”.

WHAT IS PAROLE?

According to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, all offenders must be considered for some form of conditional release during their sentence. However, although an offender may be eligible for release does not mean that the release will be granted. The Parole Board of Canada must assess an offender’s risk to determine if a conditional release is warranted.

Parole is a conditional release from jail for offenders to serve the remainder of their sentence outside of the confines of the institution. The goal of parole programs is to provide a gradual, controlled, and supervised path between jail and freedom.

Day parole permits offenders to participate in community-based activities in preparation for full parole or statutory release. Day parole requires the offender to return each night to a community-based residence, otherwise known as a halfway house.

The Parole Board does not automatically grant parole, each individual case must be reviewed to determine suitability for release. The Parole Board will consider the following factors in determining whether an offender should be granted parole:

  • The offender’s criminal record;
  • The seriousness and nature of the offence;
  • The offender’s behaviour while in prison;
  • The offender’s release plan; and
  • The remorse he/she has expressed for the crime, and in Muzzo’s case, his guilty plea.

Victims are also allowed to provide written victim information to the Parole Board detailing any continuing impact the crime has on their life and any concerns they have for their own safety or the safety of their family.

The Parole Board can impose conditions to the day parole release in order to lessen the risk of re-offending, such as ordering abstinence or counselling. Offenders must also obey the law and report regularly to a parole officer.

Jennifer Neville-Lake, the mother of the three children killed in this devastating accident, has posted a plea on Facebook asking supporters to write to the Parole Board of Canada to oppose Muzzo’s conditional release. She has also posted a petition on Facebook requesting that Muzzo remain in prison for the remainder of his ten year sentence. She is attempting to make an example of Muzzo in an effort to prevent future drinking and driving accidents.  Over 9,100 people have signed the petition to date, with a goal of 10,000 signatures.

We will continue to follow the Muzzo case and will report any developments on this blog.

In the meantime, if you or a loved one have been charged with an impaired driving offence or any other driving offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced and knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times. Contact our office online or at 905-404-1947.

Proposed Legislation to End Solitary Confinement

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Following the Ontario and British Columbia Superior Court decisions that found that the use of segregation was unconstitutional (which we have previously blogged about), a new piece of legislation has been introduced which proposes to overhaul how federal inmates are separated from the general prison population.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has introduced Bill C-83 to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. These changes would eliminate solitary confinement and replace it with “structured intervention units” (“SIUs”). The SIUs will allow inmates to be separated from the general population if they are unable to exist safely with the other prisoners.

HOW WILL SEGREGATION IN PRISONS CHANGE UNDER BILL C-83?

As it stands today, inmates placed in solitary confinement are allowed two hours a day outside of their cell, but are not entitled to any human contact. Under Bill C-83, prisoners who are found to be at risk to themselves or others will be placed in SIUs.

Prisoners placed in SIUs will have access to rehabilitative programming, interventions, and mental-health care. They will be visited daily by a registered health care professional and be provided access to patient advocates. These inmates will be given at least four hours a day outside of their cell and at least two hours a day with “meaningful” human contact.

Bill C-83 also proposes to allow staff members to use body scan imaging technology as an alternative to body cavity searches to prevent contraband from entering prisons.

Furthermore, Bill C-83 includes provisions that background and systemic factors should be considered in all correctional decisions in cases involving indigenous inmates.

Correctional Service of Canada Commissioner Anne Kelly supports the proposed legislation and stated:

I believe these legislative changes will transform the federal correctional system while ensuring that our institutions provide a safe and secure environment that is conducive to inmate rehabilitation, staff safety and the protection of the public. They will also help ensure that our correctional system continues to be progressive and takes into account the needs of a diverse offender population.

LIMITATIONS OF BILL C-83

Bill C-83 does not address the time limits for segregation or the independent oversight of segregation decisions, which are both issues that the federal correctional ombudsman and rights advocates have been lobbying for.

Furthermore, if this bill passes, this legislation will have no effect on the use of solitary confinement in all provincial jails. These jails are made up of pretrial prisoners and those inmates serving sentences of less than two years.

Goodale believes that the appeals by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in Ontario and the federal government in B.C. with respect to the constitutionality of current policies for solitary confinement that are scheduled to begin next month will proceed. But, he is hopeful that this new legislation will address the concerns of all current policies and make further litigation regarding solitary confinement unnecessary.

CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT

A lawsuit has been certified by a Superior Court Judge as a class action lawsuit in Ontario alleging that the Ontario government violated the rights of its inmates by placing them inappropriately in solitary confinement.

The $600 million legal action alleges that the provincial government has been negligent in utilizing segregation by isolating prisoners for weeks, months or even years.

The lawsuit includes inmates diagnosed with severe mental illnesses (i.e. schizophrenia or psychosis) who served time in segregation in provincial facilities since January 1, 2009. Inmates who were placed in solitary confinement for 15 days or longer are also included in the class.

The main issue in the lawsuit is “administrative segregation”. This takes place when inmates are isolated either to ensure their own safety or for the safety of others in the facility. Inmates are kept in tiny cells without any human contact for most of the day.

Conrey Francis (“Francis”) is the representative Plaintiff for this class action lawsuit. Francis is the individual who represents the entire class in the action.

Francis has spent several periods of time in prison since 1982, and was placed in solitary confinement. Francis has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and suffers from extreme panic attacks. Francis alleges that his time in isolation worsened his mental health and he began suffering from suicidal thoughts and auditory hallucinations.

We will continue to follow the developments of Bill C-83, the appeals regarding the rulings that administrative segregations are unconstitutional, and the class action lawsuit commenced in Ontario and will report any updates in this blog.

In the meantime, should you have any questions regarding your legal rights and need to speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer please contact Affleck & Barrison at 905-404-1947 or contact us online. We are highly knowledgeable and extremely experienced at defending a wide range of criminal charges. For your convenience, we offer 24-hour phone services.

Legal Challenges Expected for Drug-Impaired Driving Charges

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Now that cannabis has become legal in Canada, there are still many questions that remain unanswered. Impaired driving is one of those murky subjects.

Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada. Drivers that are killed in car accidents that test positive for drugs (40%) now exceed the number of those who test positive for alcohol (33%).

Cannabis can impair everyone differently depending on the method of consumption (smoked, inhaled, ingested), quantity of cannabis consumed, and the variety of cannabis and its THC levels. Therefore, there is no direction as to how much cannabis can be consumed before you are considered an “impaired” driver or how long a driver should wait to drive after consuming cannabis. The Government of Canada is therefore recommending that you should not drive high.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould recommends:

For the sake of safety on the roads, we recommend people not get behind the wheels of their car if they’ve consumed any alcohol or drugs.

TRAINED OFFICERS

The Government of Canada reports that they have trained police officers, also known as Drug Recognition Experts, to determine if you are under the influence of drugs while driving.

Durham Police Services has trained 130 officers in standardized field sobriety testing, and an additional 6 officers are trained in drug impairment recognition.

According to the Government of Canada’s website, there are over 13,000 trained Standardized Field Sobriety Test officers across Canada and 833 certified Drug Recognition Experts. As the federal, provincial, and territorial governments continue to invest money into training, these numbers will continue to increase.

THE OFFENCE OF IMPAIRED DRIVING

New impaired driving offences came into force at the end of June setting limits on how much THC (the primary psychoactive element in marijuana) a person can legally have in their system while driving before facing penalties.

According to the new rules, police can lay a summary conviction charge against a person driving with between two and five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood (subject to a maximum fine of $1,000). Charges may be laid either as a summary or indictable offence for those who have more than five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. The latter is a more serious crime with fines and jail time as penalties.

DETECTING DRUG-IMPAIRED DRIVING

Drivers who are suspected of driving high will be asked to take a field sobriety test, this includes an assessment of how the individual’s eyes react to light and movement, and their ability to perform a series of activities designed to gauge their physical co-ordination.

If an officer forms grounds to believe a driver is impaired, they may place the driver under arrest and demand a more extensive examination by a drug recognition officer. This test is conducted at a police station and relies upon physiological evidence, such as blood pressure, pulse rate, and the examination of muscle tone and eye reactions. This examination will also involve the extraction of bodily fluids, in most cases urine, which will be sent to the Centre of Forensic Sciences for analysis.

It is a criminal offence to refuse to submit to the drug recognition officer examination, similar to the refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test during a drunk driving investigation.

ROADSIDE DRUG-SCREENING EQUIPMENT

Durham Police are anticipating that they will be equipped with devices to test saliva samples for the presence of drugs, but they are not currently available.

The Ontario Provincial Police force has confirmed that it will be purchasing federally approved roadside drug-screening equipment to identify impaired drivers. However, it is uncertain at this time how many of these devices will be purchased or when they will become available.

The device is known as the Drager DrugTest 5000, which has the ability to test saliva for cocaine and THC (the main psychoactive agent in cannabis). Canada’s Department of Justice approved this device this past August.

If a driver is suspected of being high, an officer would ask the driver to provide a saliva sample, using a cassette. The cassette is then inserted into the analyzer to be tested. Within approximately four minutes, the results of the test will determine whether the driver is over the nanogram limit (positive or negative). If so, the driver will then proceed to the police station for a blood test.

LEGAL CHALLENGES AHEAD

Government officials have acknowledged that although they are prepared for cannabis legalization, it is expected that the courts will set clearer interpretations of the new impaired driving laws as charges are laid and cases move through the criminal legal system.

It is particularly complicated to measure the concentration of THC in someone’s blood and determine when it came from. Thus, the problem arises when determining how the police can prove that the amount of THC in the blood was impairing the driver or whether the THC was lingering in the driver’s blood from consumption days earlier as THC can be detected several days after someone has smoked.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has said that officers will have to make a decision on a “case-by-case” basis when determining whether a driver will face a charge for drug impaired driving.

Many are concerned that there is no conclusive way to determine that someone is driving high. The roadside saliva drug tests approved by the government have also been criticized for being an unreliable testing method. Furthermore, some criminal defence lawyers have suggested that these tests could face challenges under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We will continue to provide updates and developments following the legalization of marijuana in Canada in this blog as they become available.

If you have been charged with an impaired driving or any other driving offence, or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times. Contact our office online or at 905-404-1947.

Bill Tabled to Expunge Cannabis-Related Criminal Records

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A new bill has been introduced in the House of Commons to expunge the records of those individuals who have a criminal record for past minor, non-violent marijuana possession convictions.

New Democrat MP Murray Rankin has tabled the private member’s Bill C-415, An Act to establish a procedure for expunging certain cannabis-related convictions. Rankin estimates that more than 500,000 Canadians have a criminal record for personal possession charges for marijuana.

BILL C-415

The new bill proposes to expunge criminal records for those convicted of personal possession crimes that will no longer be considered illegal pursuant to Bill C-45, which comes into effect on October 17, 2018. This bill will also allow those applying for a pardon to not have to wait five to ten years and pay the current $631 fee. Under Rankin’s proposal, the process will be faster and entirely free.

In 2016, 58% of all charges related to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act were related to cannabis, and approximately three quarters of those offences were for possession.

Supporters of Bill C-415 maintain that it is unreasonable to have individuals continue to be unable to attain jobs, volunteer in the community or coach a child’s sports team for doing something that will no longer be illegal in a weeks time.

MP Rankin notes that a disproportionate number of non-violent cannabis-related convictions belong to marginalized or racialized Canadians. He reports:

In Toronto, black people without a criminal record were three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white people. In Halifax, five times as likely. In Regina, it’s nine times more often for Indigenous people.

The federal government has made it clear that it will not consider marijuana pardons until after legalization. However, the possibility of doing so has not been ruled out and the government is currently evaluating the legal implications.

RECORD SUSPENSIONS (PARDONS)

A criminal record can be a barrier to attaining a job, volunteering, or going on a vacation out of the country. In order to remove your criminal record from law enforcement databases, you must be granted a Record Suspension (formerly known as a Pardon).

You do not need to apply for a Record Suspension if charges against you were dismissed, stayed or withdrawn, or did not result in a conviction.

Once you have completed your sentence and proven that you are a law-abiding citizen, you may have your record removed from the Canadian Police Information Centre database by being issued a Record Suspension.

Possession of marijuana up to 30 grams is a summary conviction offence. Those convicted of a summary conviction offence (less serious and punishable by shorter prison sentences and smaller fines, without the right to a jury trial) cannot apply for a Record Suspension until at least 5 years have passed since he/she completed his/her imprisonment, paid his/her fines, and completed his/her term of probation.

Canadians convicted of an indictable offence (more serious crimes) cannot apply for a Record Suspension under the Criminal Records Act until at least 10 years have passed since he/she completed his/her term of imprisonment, paid his/her fine, or completed his/her term of probation.

Those who have been convicted of a sexual assault or sexually-related crime or who have been convicted of more than three indictable offences cannot apply for a Record Suspension. The person applying for a Record Suspension also cannot be convicted of a subsequent offence and must prove to the Parole Board that he/she is of good character.

Clearing your criminal record involves three steps and a waiting period. These steps include data collection, data analysis, and the Canadian pardon application.

Prior to submitting your Record Suspension application to the Parole Board of Canada, it can take from 4 to 6 months to prepare the application and obtain the supporting documents.

An application for a record suspension costs $631, and with added fees for documents and records checks, it could cost in excess of $1,600.

If you are granted a Record Suspension, this means that your record is merely sealed. A member of the public cannot check online to see if you have a record, however, certain legal agencies can still access this information under specific legal circumstances.

On October 17, 2018, the Cannabis Act will become law and in Ontario adults who are 19 or older will be permitted to buy, use, possess, and grow recreational cannabis.  However, until legalization comes into effect Canadians will continue to be charged for cannabis offences.

We will continue to provide updates in this blog regarding the proposed bill to expunge criminal records for minor cannabis possession and the legalization of cannabis in Canada as this information becomes available, and will blog about developments as they arise.

In the meantime, if you are facing drug related charges or have any questions concerning your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We maintain a 24-hour call service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Human Trafficking Education in Durham Region

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Durham Regional Police Service (“Durham Police”) have launched a human trafficking awareness website to alert parents and teens in Durham to the dangers of human trafficking occurring in their own city.

In 2017, Durham Police dealt with 27 cases of human trafficking. In 2018, the Durham Police human trafficking unit has conducted 80 investigations and laid more than 130 charges. In the last six months, 41 girls have been lured into human trafficking in Durham.

According to Statistics Canada, since 2010 human trafficking cases have increased approximately 580% in Canada (from less than 50 to nearly 350 cases). In fact, two thirds of human trafficking offences that were reported to the police in Canada were found to take place in Ontario.

Durham is considered a breeding ground for human traffickers as it is a common stop along the Highway 401 corridor. Victims are quickly and easily moved around from city to city in hotel rooms up and down the highway.

Traffickers, male or female, lure their victims, then coerce them into sex work, using psychological manipulation, threats, addiction, violence, and isolation to control the young girls.

The website stopht.com, developed by the Durham Region Human Trafficking Coalition, outlines warning signs, myths about human trafficking, targeted individuals, and where to get help.

In the case of preventing human trafficking, knowledge is power. Durham Police urge all parents to become educated about human trafficking. They recommend that parents look for “red flags” and keep an open dialogue with their teens. Unexplained gifts or money, long absences, change in mental health, multiple cell phones, and new friends or boyfriends are signs that someone you know has become a victim of human trafficking.

WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING?

Human trafficking is often described as a modern day form of slavery. It involves the recruitment, transportation, harbouring, and/or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person in order to exploit that person, ordinarily through sexual manipulation or forced labour.

Victims are deprived of their normal lives and forced to provide labour or sexual services, through terrorizing practices, for the direct benefit of their perpetrators.

EDUCATION IS KEY

According to experts in the field of human trafficking, early education is the crucial component to combat these heinous crimes. Children, at a young age, need to be taught self-worth, empowerment, and the meaning of consent.

Durham Police are taking their knowledge and expertise to local schools to educate students regarding the dangers of sex trafficking. Educating girls, who are the most vulnerable, to recognize the warning signs is essential. Girls believe that they are in love with their traffickers, who lure and groom them into this dangerous lifestyle.

The new website stopht.com features a video, signs to look for, common myths, and what the community can do to help victims of sex trafficking.

Both parents, teachers, and students require education to learn the warning signs in order to prevent someone from becoming a victim in a human trafficking trap.

Parents are encouraged to look for “red flags” and note any changes in their teenagers appearance or behaviour.

Who is Most at Risk for Sex Trafficking?

Women and girls are most often the targets of sex traffickers, however, young men and those in the LGBTQ community are also being targeted.

Approximately 75% of female trafficking victims are under the age of 18-years-old, and some are even as young as 12 or 13-years-old.

Police report that marginalized youth, Indigenous youth and youth experiencing homelessness are most often targeted. Youth who struggle with low self-esteem, bullying, poverty, abuse, and family issues are also targeted.  Risk factors also include addiction, mental health issues, and developmental disabilities.

Traffickers have been found to recruit girls online, at local malls, high schools, libraries, group homes, bus stops, and parties at hotels.

Possible Signs that Someone is Being Groomed for Sex Trafficking

Sex traffickers often recruit young people by becoming their loyal friend or even boyfriend. The following changes may be signs that a young person is being groomed for sex trafficking:

  • Withdrawing from family and friends;
  • Being secretive about their activities;
  • Having a new boyfriend/girlfriend/friend who they will not introduce to friends or family;
  • Staying out more often and later;
  • Absences from school or a decline in school performance;
  • Wearing more sexualized clothing;
  • Wearing new clothing or jewelry that they cannot afford to buy; and
  • Having a new or second cell phone with a secret number.

How Do You Become a Victim?

Human trafficking may start with a tactic called the “boyfriend trafficker”. This occurs when a young pimp lures a girl with affection, romance, and gifts. The relationship proceeds quickly and the boyfriend begins to make promises, such as marriage or moving in together. The vulnerable young girl begins to feel loved and secure. Then the boyfriend tells her that he has fallen into trouble and needs money. He asks the young girl to help him out. This usually starts by asking her to strip or service a client in order to earn money.

Once the girl has begun performing sexual services, she becomes controlled by her boyfriend through psychological manipulation, threats, addiction, violence, and isolation. The victims are often, but not always, moved from hotel to hotel and city to city, to isolate them and keep them away from their loved ones.

Visit the website stopHT.com to learn more about human trafficking in Durham.

If you have been charged with human trafficking or a related charge or have an questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We have a 24-hour phone serve for your convenience. We are available when you need us most.

Sextortion Crimes in Canada

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Sextortion in Canada is on the rise. The RCMP have been investigating 24 incidents of sextortion since May, 2018.

Sextortion is a form of exploitation that involves the threat of releasing shared intimate videos, images, or explicit messages online.

Experts have found a spike in reported online sextortion cases involving teenage boys. According to the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (a national charity dedicated to the personal safety and protection of children), 65 boys reported incidents to Cybertip.ca in 2015-2016, an 89% increase from the previous two-year period. Reports made by girls in 2015-2016 increased by 66% from the previous two-year period.

Boys, usually between the ages of 13 to 15, are targeted through a social media website by strangers who show a romantic interest. The perpetrator then sends a pre-recorded video of a young girl and solicits the teen boy to reciprocate by sending sexually explicit images or videos of themselves. When the perpetrator has the explicit material, the boy is led to believe that the images or video will not be shared with the public as long as cash is delivered.

RECENT ARREST FOR SEXTORTION

In Manitoba, a 22-year-old woman met a 25-year-old man on Tinder (no names have been disclosed due to privacy concerns). The two began chatting online, and then went on a couple of dates over a two week period of time. The man received “sensitive images” of the woman that were consensual.

The woman reported to police that there were occasions when the man would rip off her clothes and take pictures of her, without her consent.

The woman later found videos that the man took without her consent of occasions where he was “taking advantage of her in his truck”.

The woman refused to see the man again, at which point he began to threaten her. The man claimed that if she did not come over, he would send the videos and photographs to her work.

In a text message, the man wrote “It’s called f-ing leverage. It’s called blackmail. … If you are not here by 9:30 by yourself then all the videos go out. There is no if’s and or butts.”

The woman reported the blackmail to the police, and the RCMP proceeded to obtain a search warrant and attended at the man’s home on March 20, 2018. At that time, they proceeded to seize all electronics (laptop, Xbox one, and two iPhones), along with 15 other items.

The man has been charged with extortion, voyeurism, and indecent phone calls. He has also been charged with “sextortion”, a newly added crime in the Criminal Code (section 162.1), referencing someone who distributes an intimate image of someone without that person’s consent.

The man is awaiting his court date, but a protection order has been grant requiring the man to stay at least 100 metres away from the woman until 2020.

RCMP WARNINGS

RCMP are warning the public of various types of sextortion scenarios that they have been investigating.

One scenario occurs where a victim receives unsolicited friend requests on social media or a pornographic website and an online relationship develops. The relationship builds and the victim is encouraged and coerced to use his/her computer’s camera to perform a sexual act on camera. The victim later learns that this event was recorded and is threatened to make a payment or the video will be released.

Another scheme occurs when a victim receives an email advising that someone has infiltrated their computer and knows that they have been visiting a pornographic website. The hacker provides the victim’s password in the email and reveals that they have a sexually explicit recording of the victim. Then a demand for payment is made, usually in the form of Bitcoins.

In all of these scenarios, the victims are threatened with the release of intimate videos or images if a payment, in the form of a money transfer or Bitcoin, is not received.

TIPS TO PREVENT SEXTORTION

The following are some recommendations to protect yourself from becoming a victim of sextortion:

  1. Do not accept friend requests from unknown individuals on social media;
  2. Do not talk to people online who you do not know;
  3. Do not perform an illicit act over the internet;
  4. Disable your webcam or any other camera connected to the internet when you are not using it;
  5. Do not open attachments from individuals you do not know;
  6. Do not share explicit videos and/or photographs with anyone;
  7. Parents should review and approve all applications downloaded to their children’s electronic devices and regularly monitor the content of all applications and social media websites used by their children;
  8. Parents should discuss internet safety with their children and reinforce the need to tell an adult if anyone threatens them or asks for sexual acts or sexually explicit images;
  9. If you have been targeted, stop communicating with the individual, save all correspondence and immediately report the incident to the police.

We will continue to follow any developments that take place in the latest sextortion case in Manitoba as it makes it way through the courts and will report on them in this blog.

In the meantime, if you are facing sextortion charges or charges related to any other sexual offence, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. For your convenience, we offer 24-hour phone services. We are available when you need us most.

‘Spiderman’ Has Murder Conviction Overturned

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

 

Shawn Vassel (“Vassel”) has spent seven years in prison and has recently had his conviction overturned and a new trial ordered by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

In 2011, Vassel was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of a Mississauga man during a drug deal turned robbery that occurred in 2007.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Vassel was nicknamed the “Spiderman killer” after he scaled down 11 floors of a North York apartment building in his attempt to flee the police.

Vassel was confronted by police at his mother’s apartment on the 18th floor. He exited the balcony and began rappelling from one floor to the next, finally appearing outside of the building and was eventually caught by the police after a chase on foot.

Vassel was arrested and charged for the murder of Husam Dagheim (“Dagheim”). Dagheim was shot at point-blank range in the parking lot of the Coliseum movie theatre in Mississauga during an attempted drug deal.

Vassel testified at his trial that he “risked his life” in his attempt to escape the police because he didn’t want to go to jail for a crime that he alleged he did not commit.

Vassel was sentenced to an automatic life sentence with eligibility for parole at 16 years. He has an extensive criminal record, which includes robbery, drug trafficking, and assault.

THE TRIAL

At issue at Vassel’s trial was the identity of Dagheim’s killer.

The Crown’s star witness, a former friend of Vassel, Michael Agba (“Agba”), testified that he was present during the botched drug deal and witnessed Vassel holding the loaded gun before the murder took place. During cross-examination by Vassel’s lawyer, Agba was accused of lying in order to secure a plea deal. Agba was originally charged with murder, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

There were no other witnesses that could identify the shooter, including the deceased’s wife who was seated beside her husband in a minivan at the time of his death.

Vassel testified at his own trial that he was not at the crime scene. He also testified that he lent his friends his girlfriend’s rental car for the planned robbery at the drug deal. Vassel suggested that the real killer was either Agba or another friend who were both present during the drug deal.

Cellphone records were introduced as evidence to prove that Vassel was at a townhouse complex on Ridgeway Drive in Mississauga at the time of the killing.

THE APPEAL

Vassel appealed both his conviction and the period of parole fixed by the trial judge. Vassel’s counsel argued that the trial judge made several errors regarding the admissibility of evidence and his instructions to the jury.

One of the grounds of appeal argued by Vassel’s counsel was that the trial judge erred by instructing the jury to take caution and particular care with Vassel’s evidence at trial.

In a criminal trial, all parties are entitled to a properly instructed jury. An appellate court ,when assessing a judge’s jury charge, must take a functional approach to determine whether the instructions, read as a whole, provide the jury with the necessary tools to render a verdict.

The trial judge instructed the jurors to apply the same factors in assessing Vassel’s testimony as they would any other witness. Justice Tulloch specifically stated:

Mr. Vassel has given evidence that may tend to show that either Mr. David Grant or Mr. Agba was the shooter as he was not on at the scene of the crime on the night in question. You should consider that testimony of Mr. Vassel with particular care because he may have been more concerned about protecting himself than about telling the truth. Bear that in mind when you decide how much or little you can believe of and rely upon what Mr. Vassel told you about Mr. Grant’s involvement in deciding this case.

Vassel argued, on appeal, that the trial judge erred in instructing the jury about the manner in which the jury was to assess the testimony of the appellant (the person who applies to a higher court for a reversal of the decision of a lower court).

The Appeal Court agreed with Vassel’s arguments and held that the trial judge’s instruction was problematic in terms of its impact regarding Vassel’s alibi (Vassel’s primary defence).

The Court of Appeal held that this instruction to the jury by the Judge was one of several errors. The Court stated:

In these circumstances, the inclusion of this reference had the effect of adding a level of scrutiny to the alibi evidence that was unwarranted and constitutes error.

Given that the Court of Appeal determined that the trial judge made multiple errors, Vassel’s appeal was allowed, his conviction was set aside, and a new trial was ordered. Vassel can apply for bail as he awaits his retrial.

We will continue to follow developments in this case as it makes it way through the court system and will provide updates in this blog.

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights. For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service. We are available when you need us most.

Lawyer Convicted of Murder Granted Bail Pending Appeal

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Demitry Papasotiriou-Lanteigne (“Papasotiriou”) and his lover, Michael Ivezic (“Ivezic”), were found guilty of first degree murder in the death of Allan Lanteigne (“Lanteigne”) last June following a lengthy trial. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment with no parole eligibility for 25 years.

It was alleged that the Papasotiriou and Ivezic were having an affair and conspired to kill Papasotiriou’s spouse in order to access the victim’s $2 million life insurance policy. We previously blogged about this case on June 7, 2018.

Papasotiriou is appealing his conviction and alleges that the jury’s verdict was unreasonable because it was based on circumstantial evidence. The Court of Appeal has recently granted Papasotiriou bail pending his appeal.

PAPASOTIRIOU’S BAIL HISTORY

Papasotiriou was born in Greece and came to Canada at the age of 11 after his parents split up. As a young man, he attended university and law school, and was called to the Ontario Bar. He is currently 38 years old.

Papasotiriou left Canada in 2010 to live in Greece. Ivezic followed Papasotiriou to Greece and lived with him for six months in 2010, prior to returning to Canada in January of 2011. Lanteigne was killed on March 3, 2011. Ivezic returned to Greece on May 14, 2011 to live with Papasotiriou.

Papasotirou returned to Canada on November 1, 2012 to participate in litigation regarding the proceeds of his deceased spouse’s insurance policy. He was arrested the next day.

Papasotirou applied for bail in August 2013, but was denied. He re-applied in November 2013 and provided an improved plan of release to the Court. He was again denied.

On September 11, 2014, Papasotirou was discharged following a preliminary inquiry. However, the Crown immediately launched a certiorari application (a formal request to a court challenging a legal decision alleging that the decision has been irregular or there has been an error of law) and a direct indictment was ordered on October 28, 2014, at which point Papasotirou was arrested.

Papasotirou again applied for bail, which was granted. He was released on a $400,000 recognizance with his mother, sister, and stepfather acting as sureties (person who promises to a judge to supervise an accused person while they are out on bail and pledges an amount of money). He remained out on bail for 3 ½ years with no compliance issues.

At the Court of Appeal, counsel for Papasotiriou proposed a plan for release pending his client’s appeal as follows:

  • $500,000 recognizance with his mother, stepfather, and stepfather’s mother as sureties;
  • strict house arrest with very narrow exceptions; and
  • GPS ankle bracelet to be monitored by Recovery Science Corporation (funded by Papasotiriou).

GROUNDS FOR GRANTING BAIL PENDING APPEAL

Pursuant to section 679(3) of the Criminal Code, a judge of the appeal court may order an appellant released pending appeal if he/she has established the following:

  • That the appeal is not frivolous;
  • That he/she will surrender into custody in accordance with the terms of any bail order; and
  • That the detention is not necessary “in the public interest”.

The “not frivolous” test is a very low bar, and in Papasotiriou’s case the Crown did not suggest to the Court that the appeal is frivolous.

The Crown did, however, argue that Papasotiriou has not discharged his onus to surrender into custody given his ties to Greece. The Court of Appeal, rejected the Crown’s argument on this ground, and held that Papasotirou’s compliance with his pre-trial bail order was “flawless” and the use of electronic monitoring will provide an “extra layer of assurance against absconding”.

The Court stated:

I accept that, standing alone, Mr. Papasotiriou’s connections to Greece may give pause for concern. However, any lingering concerns about flight are answered by his history of bail compliance and the strict release plan that is proposed. Accordingly, I am satisfied that the applicant will surrender into custody in accordance with his bail order.

The Court of Appeal outlined that there are two components which make up the third provision (public interest) to consider in granting bail pending an appeal. These include public safety and confidence in the administration of justice. The Supreme Court of Canada addressed the provision regarding the “public interest” in the case of R. v. Oland. The judicial discretion to grant bail pending appeal involves balancing enforceability (taking into account the gravity of the offence, the circumstances surrounding its commission, and the potential length of imprisonment) and reviewability interests (taking into account the strength of the grounds of the appeal).

The Crown conceded that Papasotiriou has proven that he will not commit offences if he is released on bail, thus discharging the onus of the public safety component. However, the Crown did take issue with maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice.

The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Papasotiriou and held:

The “public interest” requires that I balance all of these factors – the circumstances of the applicant, the nature of the offence, the apparent strength of the appeal, and the time it will take to argue the appeal – to determine whether public confidence in the administration of justice would be undermined by Mr. Papasotiriou’s release on bail.

The Court of Appeal maintained that Papasotiriou was not being “turned loose”, but rather carefully monitored in accordance with a stringent release plan (i.e. house arrest, GPS electronic monitoring, and the pledge of $500,000 by his sureties), which is consistent with the proper functioning of the Canadian justice system. Therefore, the Court allowed Papasotiriou’s application and granted him bail pending his appeal.

We will continue to follow any developments in this case as it makes its way through the judicial system and will provide updates in this blog.

In the meantime, to speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Extreme Intoxication Can be Used as a Defence for Sexual Assault in Ontario

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

An Ontario judge has ruled that the defence of extreme intoxication in sexual assault cases is once again valid in Ontario.

Superior Court Justice Nancy Spies ruled recently in the case of R. v. Cameron McCaw (“McCaw”) that section 33.1 of the Criminal Code, which states that self-induced intoxication is not a defence, is unconstitutional as it violates a defendant’s right to be presumed innocent and the right to fundamental justice.

HISTORY OF THE DEFENCE OF EXTREME INTOXICATION

The Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) ruled in 1994 that drunkenness in its extreme is a defence to sexual assault. This is known as the Daviault decision. The SCC upheld a trial judge’s acquittal of chronic alcoholic, Henri Daviault. Daviault was permitted to use extreme intoxication as a defence against charges that he sexually assaulted a disabled 65-year-old woman. Daviault had consumed up to eight beers and almost an entire large bottle of brandy. The court ruled that depriving Daviault of the drunkenness defence would violate his Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”).

Following this ruling, the federal government quickly introduced a law abolishing the defence of self-induced intoxication for crimes involving assault (section 33.1 of the Criminal Code).

33.1 (1)  It is not a defence to an offence referred to in subsection (3) that the accused, by reason of self-induced intoxication, lacked the general intent or the voluntariness required to commit the offence, where the accused departed markedly from the standard of care as described in subsection (2).

33.1 (2)  For the purposes of this section, a person departs markedly from the standard of reasonable care generally recognized in Canadian society and is thereby criminally at fault where the person, while in a state of self-induced intoxication that renders the person unaware of, or incapable of consciously controlling, their behaviour, voluntarily or involuntarily interferes or threatens to interfere with the bodily integrity of another person.

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE CASE OF R. v. MCCAW?

On July 11, 2015, the alleged victim, referred to as K.B., and her ex-boyfriend (also the roommate of McCaw) attended a pool party from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. where they consumed a lot of alcohol. K.B., her ex-boyfriend, and another man then met up with McCaw at his apartment . They had a few more drinks and then went outside to the parking lot to smoke. K.B. was so intoxicated that she had to be carried inside the apartment and placed on the couch in the living room where she passed out, fully clothed. McCaw and his two friends went to a nearby bar to continue drinking. McCaw and the ex-boyfriend then returned to the apartment. At some point during the evening, McCaw allegedly consumed marijuana and GBD, the “date-rape drug”.

K.B. alleges that “she awoke to find Mr. McCaw touching her sexually and kissing her and then engaging in sexual intercourse with her.” She initially thought this was her ex-boyfriend, so she did not resist. She then realized that it was McCaw. The victim left the apartment with her ex-boyfriend, leaving McCaw sitting in an arm chair, where he appeared to be sleeping and holding a pair of scissors.

The victim reported the sexual assault to police around 5 a.m. the next morning. Police proceeded to arrest and charge McCaw with sexual assault.

JUSTICE SPIES’ DECISION

Prior to McCaw’s trial, an application was filed by McCaw’s lawyer seeking an order affirming that section 33.1 of the Criminal Code was not in effect as it violated McCaw’s rights under the Charter. Allegedly, McCaw will testify at trial that he had sexual intercourse with A.B., but performed these acts without having intended to do so.

Justice Spies stated that section 33.1 “relieves the Crown of proving the specific mens rea for the charged offence and instead allows for proof of guilt on a different, and arguable lower, standard. It does this even where the state of the accused’s intoxication is so extreme that it reasonably gives rise to a doubt about whether the accused intended the offending action. The prospect of conviction in the face of a reasonable doubt offends both s. 7 and s. 11(d) of the Charter.”

Justice Spies also maintained that section 33.1 relieves the Crown of proving the voluntariness of the act (a mental element of the crime), again infringing an accused’s Charter rights.

In conclusion, Justice Spies allowed McCaw’s application and affirmed that section 33.1 of the Criminal Code is of no force and effect in Ontario. Thus, this decision does not apply directly to any other province in Canada.

Justice Spies provided her ruling on the defence of extreme drunkenness prior to McCaw’s trial. This allows McCaw to use the defence at trial on the charge that he sexually assaulted a woman in a Toronto apartment.

McCaw must prove at trial that it was more likely than not that he was intoxicated to the point of automatism. This is described as a robotic state where he was not aware of his actions.

McCaw’s trial begins on September 12. We will provide updates in this blog as new developments regarding this case become available.

In the meantime, if you have been charged with a sexual assault offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience.