Mandatory Victims’ Surcharge Quashed by Supreme Court

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court in Canada, has eliminated mandatory victim surcharges for convicted criminals.

The Supreme Court, in a 7-2 ruling, held that the surcharge amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. The court stated that making the victim fine mandatory does not allow sentencing judges to consider mitigating factors, ignores the goal of rehabilitation, and undermines the intention of the government to address the problem of indigenous overrepresentation in prison.

WHAT IS THE MANDATORY VICTIM SURCHARGE?

The victim surcharge, which was established in 1988, is a monetary penalty that is automatically imposed on those convicted in Canada at the time of sentencing. Five years ago, the government removed the ability for judges to waive or lower this fine and made them mandatory in all cases.

The victim surcharge can be found under section 737 of the Criminal Code. The surcharge is calculated at 30% of any fine imposed. If no fine is imposed, the surcharge is $100 for lower-severity offences and $200 for more serious offences. If the offender has the financial means and the court considers it appropriate, the offender may be ordered to pay a higher amount.

The money collected from victim surcharges was intended to be used by the government to make offenders more accountable and help fund programs and services for victims of crime.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE SUPREME COURT OF CANADA?

Alex Boudreault (“Boudreault”), a Quebec man, pleaded guilty to several counts related to breaches of probation orders, breaking and entering, possession of stolen property, and assault with a weapon.

Boudreault, a high-school dropout who was unable to hold a steady job, was sentenced to 36 months in prison and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of $1,400 by a court in Quebec. At that time, Boudreault argued that the victim surcharge infringed his Charter rights guaranteeing him freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. These arguments were rejected by the court.

Boudreault appealed this ruling, which was dismissed by the Quebec Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court of Appeal agreed to hear Boudreault’s appeal, along with six other similar cases. In all seven cases, the offenders argued that they were living in poverty and suffered from physical and mental illnesses, struggled with addiction in some cases, and could not afford the victim surcharges.

The Crown argued that the fines were not unacceptable as the offenders could ask for more time to pay and that the money collected was put towards improving the lives of the victims. For example, in Ontario, these funds are used to support 39 sexual assault and rape centres and the Ontario Child Witness Project (designed to help children and adolescents who are called to testify as victims or witnesses in court).

The appellants argued that the surcharges were a violation of section 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects against cruel and unusual punishment. They argued that the surcharge was grossly disproportionate to the crime committed.

The majority of the Supreme Court agreed with the appellants and struck down the entire section of the Criminal Code pertaining to victim surcharges and it was “declared to be of no force and effect immediately”.

The judgment reads:

The surcharge constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and therefore violates s. 12 of the Charter, because its impact and effects create circumstances that are grossly disproportionate to what would otherwise be a fit sentence, outrage the standards of decency, and are both abhorrent and intolerable.

 Justice Sheilah Martin, writing for the majority decision, also stated:

Judges have been forced to impose a one-size-fits-all punishment which does not take into account the individual’s ability to pay. In this context, the resulting indeterminate punishment results in a grossly disproportionate public shaming of disadvantaged offenders.  It is what most Canadians would call an abhorrent and intolerable punishment.

Although this decision eliminates all fines owed by the seven offenders and no future victim surcharges can be imposed in any circumstances, it does not eliminate outstanding victim surcharge orders. Those offenders who owe these fines, must seek relief in the courts on an individual basis.

The Liberal government is now left to determine the future of the surcharge. There is currently drafted legislation awaiting passage by the Senate giving judges the discretion to waive or apply the victim surcharge. A spokesperson for Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has advised that she is reviewing the Supreme Court decision “to assess the appropriate next steps”.

We will continue to follow any developments or changes in the law as they become available, and will provide updates in this blog.

In the meantime, to speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about any 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. We are available when you need us most.

Supreme Court Declines Bid for Appeal by Toronto Cop

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The highest court in Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada, has denied the request for leave to appeal made by Toronto Police Constable James Forcillo (“Forcillo”) of his 2016 conviction of attempted murder and six-year jail sentence.

We have previously blogged about both the trial court decision, in which the jury found Forcillo guilty of attempted murder in the death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim (“Yatim”), and the Ontario appeal court decision, which upheld the trial court decision.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The shooting death of Yatim on July 27, 2013 was recorded on video by a bystander showing Forcillo shooting Yatim in two separate intervals. Forcillo shot Yatim as he stood on the steps of an empty Dundas streetcar, and then resumed firing 5.5 seconds later as Yatim lay on the ground, apparently dying.

The police were called upon after Yatim exposed himself and handled a small knife on a streetcar, prompting both passengers and the driver to flee the streetcar.

Although a jury acquitted Forcillo of second-degree murder for firing the initial fatal shots, he was held guilty of attempted murder for pausing for 5.5 seconds and deciding to fire at Yatim six more times.

Forcillo was sentenced to six years in jail for firing the second set of shots which were found to be “unreasonable, unnecessary and excessive” and an “egregious breach of trust”. Forcillo proceeded to appeal his conviction and sentence, and was granted bail while awaiting his appeal.

In November, 2017, while Forcillo awaited the appeal of his conviction he was placed on house arrest bail and was living with his estranged wife, who was also his surety. During this time, SIU investigators went to his fiancee’s home to assess the apartment’s suitability. Forcillo answered the door and tried to explain that his presence at the home was only temporary. However, a lease agreement of the rental unit was found to be signed by Forcillo and his fiancée, and his name was found on the intercom directory in the apartment lobby. Forcillo was charged with failing to comply with his recognizance.

Forcillo’s bail was revoked and he was sent to prison to await the appeal of his conviction and sentence. During this time, new charges were laid against him alleging that he committed perjury by making a “false statement under oath in an affidavit” and obstructing justice by attempting to cause a judge of the Court of Appeal to act on an affidavit made under oath that contained omissions, misleading, and or false statement.

The charges for obstruction and breach of bail conditions were withdrawn after Forcillo pleaded guilty to perjury. Forcillo was sentenced by Justice Sandra Bacchus to six months in prison, on top of his existing 6 year jail term.

In April, 2018, Forcillo’s case was heard before the highest court in Ontario where his lawyers argued, in part, that the shooting should not have been divided into two separate charges as it was one continuous event. The Ontario Court of Appeal found that there were differences between the two volleys of shots by Forcillo, and therefore upheld Forcillo’s conviction and sentence.

Forcillo applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. This was Forcillo’s last available remedy to overturn his conviction and jail sentence. The Supreme Court of Canada only hears approximately 11% of all cases that submit applications to be heard by the highest level of court in Canada. The court does not provide any reasons as to why cases are rejected at this level.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Forcillo officially resigned from Toronto Police Service on September 4, 2018.  He becomes eligible for day parole in July 2019 and eligible for full parole as of January 2020.

Forcillo’s criminal case has now ended with the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear his appeal, however, his legal battles are not yet over. There is still a coroner’s inquest to be held, a date for which has not yet been set. Also, Yatim’s parents have filed separate civil lawsuits against Forcillo.

Sergeant Dusan Pravica (“Pravica”), who arrived on the scene seconds after Yatim was shot, is also facing one count of misconduct under Ontario’s Police Services Act and awaits a hearing before the Toronto Police Disciplinary Tribunal. The Office of the Independent Police Review Director completed an investigation following Yatim’s death (and a complaint filed by Yatim’s father) and concluded that Pravica used unnecessary force, failed to assess the totality of the circumstances, and acted in haste when he Tasered Yatim as he lay on the ground. Pravica gave evidence at Forcillo’s trial that Yatim was still clutching a knife as he approached him and he felt that Yatim still posed a threat.

We will continue to follow Pravica’s case and await the results of the hearing before the Toronto Police Disciplinary Tribunal, and will report any developments in this blog.

In the meantime, 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.

Report Released Indicates Racial Profiling by Toronto Police

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Last week, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (“OHRC”) released an interim report regarding racial profiling and racial discrimination by Toronto Police Services.

The OHRC is the provincial statutory agency responsible for improving human rights and preventing systemic discrimination in Ontario.

According to the OHRC, the data showed that Black citizens are overrepresented in cases where Toronto Police use force that results in serious injury or death. In its report, the OHRC expressed its grave concern about racial profiling and discrimination of Black people by Toronto Police Services in use of force incidents, stops, questioning and searches, and charges laid.

A COLLECTIVE IMPACT

The OHRC began its inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black citizens by the Toronto Police following concerns raised by Black communities in Toronto, and more specifically following the gunpoint arrest of four black teenagers in 2011 (known as the Neptune Four) and the shooting death of Andrew Loku in 2015.

The report, entitled “A Collective Impact” (the “report”), examined qualitative and quantitative data from the Special Investigations Unit (an agency that investigates police incidents that involve injuries or death) between January 1, 2010 and June 30, 2017 in Toronto.

According to the report, between 2013 and 2017 a Black person was 20 times more likely than a White person to be involved in a fatal shooting by the Toronto Police.

In Toronto, Black people account for 8.8% of the population. According to the report, between January 1, 2013 and June 30, 2017 in Toronto, Black people were found to be over-represented in the following circumstances:

  • police use-of-force cases (28.8%);
  • shootings (36%);
  • deadly encounters with police (61.5%); and
  • fatal police shootings (70%).

Renu Mandhane, the OHRC’s chief commission, stated:

A Collective Impact is the latest in a body of reports, findings and recommendations – over the past 30 years – that point to persistent concerns about anti-Black racism in policing in Toronto. Our interim findings are disturbing and call for immediate action.

The report also exposed that there was a lack of legal basis for police stopping Black citizens, inappropriate searches, and unnecessary charges or arrests.

TORONTO POLICE RESPONSE TO THE REPORT

Toronto Police Services Board (“TPSB”) and Toronto Police Services (“TPS”) have acknowledged the frustrations amongst Black citizens in Toronto who have suspected they were treated differently based upon the colour of their skin.

Toronto Police Services Board and Toronto Police Services released a joint statement responding to the interim findings, which read as follows:

We recognize that there are those within Toronto’s Black communities who feel that, because of the colour of their skin, the police, including when it comes to use of force, have at times, treated them differently. We understand that this has created a sense of distrust that has lasted generations. … The Board and the Service acknowledge that no institution or organization, including the Toronto Police, is immune from overt and implicit bias. … Nevertheless, we acknowledge that a unique obligation is required from those of us who are charged with upholding the law and protecting all of our city’s people.  And, while we may be confronting these challenges with resolve today, we are committed to doing even better. … We are ready, willing and actively doing the hard work that is required of us.

 WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

The OHRC will continue to study SIU data and look for patterns in use of force incidents and examine connections between age, mental health, socio-economic status, and sex.

The OHRC will also examine the Police’s culture, training, policies, procedures, and accountability mechanisms. Lastly, the OHRC will hold focus groups with Black communities in Toronto and connect with police leaders, officers, associations, and organizations to better understand all of the issues.

The OHRC will prepare a final inquiry report likely to be completed in 2020, which will include all findings, recommendations, and any next steps.

In the interim, the OHRC has made the following requests:

  • That TPS and TPSB acknowledge that racial disparities raise serious concerns;
  • That TPS and TPSB support the OHRC’s inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black citizens;
  • That TPSB require the TPS to collect and publicly report on race-based data on all stops, searches, and use of force incidents;
  • That Ontario implement recommendations in the Report of the Independent Police Oversight Review;
  • That the City of Toronto implement recommendations in the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism.

We will continue to follow any developments that arise regarding the OHRC’s report and findings and any response to the noteworthy report, and will inform of these developments in this blog.

In the meantime, if you are facing criminal charges, contact the experienced and skilled Oshawa criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We take all steps needed to protect your best interests, both immediate and long term. For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour phone service and a free confidential consultation.  Whatever the nature of your offence, we can help.

Harsher Drinking and Driving Laws In Effect Next Week

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In Canada, impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury. Police report that in 2016, there were more than 70,000 impaired driving incidents, including almost 3,000 drug-impaired driving incidents.

On December 18, 2018, Part 2 of Canada’s new impaired driving legislation will come into force. These reforms to the impaired driving provisions of the Criminal Code include mandatory alcohol screening, facilitating the proof of blood alcohol concentration, eliminating and limiting defenses that reward risk-taking behaviour, and clarifying Crown disclosure obligations.

MANDATORY ALCOHOL SCREENING

The new reforms will implement mandatory alcohol screening in Canada. According to Canada’s Department of Justice website, research shows that up to 50% of drivers with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit are not detected at roadside check stops. Furthermore, other jurisdictions have found a significant decrease in fatal road accidents where mandatory alcohol screening was enacted.

With these changes, police officers will have an approved screening device on hand to test a breath sample of any driver they lawfully stop, even without reasonable suspicion that the driver has alcohol in their body. Under the current law, police officers must have reasonable suspicion that a driver has alcohol in their body before doing any roadside testing. Drivers who refuse to provide a breath sample could be subject to a criminal offence.

The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, stated:

Giving law enforcement the ability to demand a breath sample from anyone following a lawful stop will make it easier to detect impaired drivers and get these drivers off of our roads. Those who get behind the wheel after using alcohol, or a combination of alcohol and drugs, will face serious legal consequences. Do your part in keeping yourself and loved ones safe and don’t mix alcohol or drugs with driving.

PENALTIES FOR IMPAIRED DRIVERS

Starting December 18, 2018, although mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment have not changed, there will be new mandatory minimum penalties including fines, and some higher maximum fines.

The new legislation for first time offenders with high blood alcohol concentrations that have not caused bodily harm or death is as follows:

  • With blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) of 80 to 119 mg of alcohol per 100 mL of blood, first time offenders are subject to a mandatory fine of $1,000;
  • With BAC of 120 to 159 mg of alcohol per 100 mL of blood, first time offenders are subject to a mandatory fine of $1,500;
  • With BAC of 160 mg or over of alcohol per 100 mL of blood, first time offenders are subject to a mandatory fine of $2,000; and
  • A first time offender who refuses to comply with a lawful demand for a breath sample is subject to a $2,000 minimum fine.

For alcohol-impaired driving that does not cause bodily harm or death, the new mandatory minimum penalties for a second offence include a mandatory minimum 30 days imprisonment, and for third and subsequent offences a mandatory minimum penalty of 120 days imprisonment.

Drivers will also face the maximum penalty of life imprisonment for those convicted of dangerous driving causing death, which is a stiffer penalty than the current laws of a maximum of 14 years in jail.

DURHAM REGIONAL POLICE RELEASE NAMES OF ACCUSED IMPAIRED DRIVERS

Beginning November 15, 2018, Durham Regional Police launched their Festive R.I.D.E. program. Police officers have been conducting R.I.D.E. checks in Ajax, Pickering, Whitby, Oshawa, and Clarington.

Since commencing this campaign, Durham Police have been releasing the names of those charged with impaired driving every Monday under “Hot Topics” on their website. Those drivers that have been charged are identified by their name, age, gender, city, and the specific charges laid against them.

Earlier this month, York Regional Police also reported that they have adopted a “name-and-shame” campaign to keep impaired drivers off of the roads. York Regional Police will now release the names of those charged with impaired driving every Monday for the foreseeable future.

Durham Regional Police reported that its fourth week of the Festive R.I.D.E. program has led to 20 drivers being charged with drinking and driving offences after stopping more than 4,100 vehicles. In total, Durham Police has charged 63 drivers with drinking and driving offences during the four weeks of the R.I.D.E. program (down from 72 drivers charged at the same time last year). They also report that 51 motorists registered a WARN on a roadside screening device and had their driver’s licence suspended for 3 days.

If you have been charged with a driving offence of any kind or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced and knowledgeable 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.

First-time Shoplifters Will Not Be Charged In Toronto

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

According to Toronto Police, the number of reported shoplifting incidents are at a five year high in Toronto.  As of October 30, 2018 there were 16,667 shoplifting incidents reported.

On November 1, 2018, Toronto Police Service launched a pilot project called “Shop Theft”, allowing first-time shoplifters to avoid prosecution in two of Toronto’s busiest police divisions.

This project allows privately employed theft prevention officers to release an accused shoplifter after the details of the incident are called in to a police division. In the normal course, the accused would be held waiting for hours for police to arrive at the store in response to the low-priority calls.

WHAT IS THE “SHOP THEFT” PROJECT?

This pilot project will run for six months in divisions 51 and 52 in Toronto, which includes the area south of Bloor Street from Spadina Avenue east to the Don River.

Alleged offenders will be released for non-violent shoplifting incidents through the project as long as they meet the following criteria:

  • They must be 18 years of age or older;
  • The items they are accused of stealing must be worth less than $1,000; and
  • They must have identification.

Paul Rinkoff, a Toronto Police staff sergeant who is in charge of running the project, explains that the investigation will proceed as usual, it will just take place over the telephone. However, a police officer will attend the premises, if requested by any party involved.

Those that are apprehended through the Shop Theft project will not be charged, however, the police reserve the right to lay a charge at a later date depending on the circumstances of the crime.

In each case of shoplifting, the theft prevention officer will be required to fill out a form which will include details about the alleged occurrence and the accused. This form will then be forwarded to Toronto Police. The accused will be read their right to counsel and advised that they are being released. They will be given a notice of apprehension, which states why they were detained and specifies that a criminal summons may be obtained at a later date by the Toronto Police Service on that charge. This summons is unrelated to any civil proceedings that the store may commence against the accused.

The Shop Theft project will be reviewed 90-days following its commencement and again at the end of six months to determine whether Toronto Police will implement this practice in all of its divisions.

Meaghan Gray, acting director of corporate communications for the Toronto Police Service, states:

What we’ve been trying to do through the modernization process is make sure that our police officers are where the public needs them the most. And maybe responding to … shoplifting calls – that can be held just as efficiently by a theft prevention officer partnered with us over the phone – allows us to reassign those officers to more pressing calls for service.

WHAT IS SHOPLIFTING?

Shoplifting is the common term used when stealing something from a store and is an offence found under section 322 of the Criminal Code. Shoplifting can be categorized in two ways depending upon the value of the items stolen: theft over $5,000 or theft under $5,000.

Section 322 of the Criminal Code reads as follows:

Every one commits theft who fraudulently and without colour of right takes, or fraudulently and without colour of right converts to his use or to the use of another person, anything, whether animate or inanimate, with intent.

The term “colour of right” refers to the person having the authority to take it. The term “converts” means to deprive someone else of their property to use for your own enjoyment.

The term “intent” in reference to shoplifting refers to the intent to take someone else’s property. The intent needs to be proven in Court beyond a reasonable doubt by the Crown prosecutor.

Shoplifting occurs when an item has been taken from a store without paying and does not occur while you are still in the store, even if the item is in your pocket.

WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT FOR SHOPLIFTING?

Approximately 50,000 Canadians are charged with shoplifting and theft under $5,000 each year. Most shoplifters rarely attempt to steal property valued at more than $5,000. The most common items stolen include alcohol, clothing or apparel, jewelry, food, and cosmetic and beauty products.

Shoplifting is a form of theft and is therefore a serious offence, and should not be treated lightly as this offence carries with it severe penalties.

Pursuant to section 334(b) of the Criminal Code, depending on the severity of the crime, the punishment for shoplifting (theft under $5,000) is a summary offence with a maximum penalty of a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 6 months. However, the Crown prosecutor may choose to proceed by way of indictment, which carries a punishment of imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

If you are convicted of the crime of theft, you may also be subject to court fines and fees, damage to your reputation and career, and restrictions on travel.

Once you have been convicted of shoplifting (unless you were a minor at the time), the charge and conviction are permanently recorded on your criminal record.  The charge, arrest, and your fingerprints are all a matter of public record even if you are not convicted of the offence.  Therefore, when travelling or on some forms for your employment you will need to answer “yes” if you are asked if you have ever been arrested or charged with a crime.

If you are facing shoplifting or theft charges, or have any questions regarding your legal rights, it is recommended that you contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer. The lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP have years of experience defending clients against theft and stolen property charges. Contact our office today online or at 905-404-1947 to speak with our knowledgeable criminal defence lawyers that specialize in defending clients who face theft charges. We offer a free initial consultation for all prospective clients.

12 Year Sentence for Vigilante Justice Upheld

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The Alberta Court of Appeal, in a 2-1 decision, upheld Steven Vollrath’s (“Vollrath”) 12-year prison sentence for cutting off his victim’s thumb during an abduction in a case of vigilantism.

Two of the three judges at the Court of Appeal ruled that Vollrath’s sentence at trial was appropriate for the well planned “revenge kidnapping”.

The Appeal Court denounced vigilantism and stated:

Vigilantism undermines the rule of law and interferes with the administration of justice. As a general rule, those who engage in it should be dealt with severely.

WHAT HAPPENED?

In May, 2013, Richard Suter (“Suter”) was parked next to a restaurant when he and his wife began having an argument. He failed to put his car in park, and as the car proceeded forward, he unintentionally pushed on the accelerator instead of the brake. The car advanced onto the restaurant’s patio striking and killing a two-year-old child.

Suter was convicted of failing to provide a breath sample. The trial judge found that the accident was caused by driver error and not drunkenness. The Supreme Court of Canada reduced Suter’s 26-month sentence to the 10 months he had already served in jail.

While Suter was awaiting trial, Vollrath, dressed as a police officer, and two accomplices rang Suter’s doorbell and abducted him in front of his wife. His captors revealed that the reason he was being abducted was that he had hit and killed a child with his car. Suter was taken to a snowy field, his thumb was cut off with pruning shears, and he was left unconscious in the snow.

Vollrath was convicted in 2016 of kidnapping, aggravated assault, possession of a weapon, and impersonating a police officer. Vollrath had a lengthy criminal record, including violent and weapons offences.

SENTENCING PRINCIPLES

According to section 718 of the Criminal Code, the purpose of sentencing is to protect society and to impose sanctions that meet the following objectives:

  • denounce unlawful conduct;
  • deter the offender and others from committing offences;
  • separate offenders from society;
  • assist in rehabilitating offenders;
  • provide reparations for harm done to victims or the community; and
  • promote a sense of responsibility in offenders and acknowledge the harm done to victims or to the community.

Sentencing must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.

In deciding on an appropriate sentence, the Court must consider aggravating and mitigating factors, sentences imposed on similar offenders for similar offences, and all available sanctions other than imprisonment must be considered.

In Mr. Vollrath’s case, the Court considered the following aggravating factors:

  • he did not act alone;
  • there was advance planning involved in committing the offences;
  • he impersonated a police officer with the purpose of facilitating another offence;
  • the incident began at the Suter’s home;
  • the kidnapping and assault were targeted;
  • leaving Suter maimed and unconscious in a deserted area showed a callous indifference to whether he lived or died;
  • the lasting physical harm to Suter;
  • the psychological impact to both Mr. and Mrs. Suter;
  • Vollrath’s extensive criminal record; and
  • Vollrath was on release at the time of the offences.

The Court is also obligated to consider background factors for aboriginal offenders and to consider how these factors affect the offending behaviour. In Mr. Vollrath’s case, the Court found that he had no connection with his aboriginal culture at the time he became incarcerated. Furthermore, the Court held that Vollarth’s dysfunctional background was not connected to his aboriginal history as his biological father, who was a Metis man, left him when he was very young.

In coming to a conclusion in her 2016 sentencing decision, Justice E. A. Johnson of the Provincial Court of Alberta felt that the most important objective was to “denounce the acts and to deter Mr. Vollrath and others from engaging in this kind of behaviour.” Justice Johnson also considered the objectives of separating the offender from society and rehabilitation. Therefore, Justice Johnson concluded that 12 years of incarceration were fitting given the seriousness of the offence, the degree of responsibility of the offender, the aggravating factors, and the need for denunciation and deterrence.  The majority of the Alberta Court of Appeal agreed with this sentencing decision.

WHAT COMES NEXT FOR VOLLRATH?

At the Court of Appeal, the dissenting judge held that Vollrath should have been sentenced to nine years in jail after taking into account the deprivations of his childhood.

Given that there was a dissenting opinion on appeal, Vollrath has the option of appealing his case to the Supreme Court of Canada. However, the Supreme Court of Canada will only hear a case if it is convinced that the case involves a question of public importance. Approximately 1 out of 10 cases that request “leave” to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada receive permission.

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

In the meantime, if you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced and knowledgeable 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. We are available when you need us most.

‘Sexsomnia” Defence Rejected by Ontario Judge

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A Judge has rejected the defence of “sexsomnia” and ruled that Ryan Hartman (“Hartman”) is criminally responsible for the sexual assault of a woman despite his claim that he was sleepwalking at the time of the criminal act.

Hartman was found guilty of sexual assault in 2012 and sentenced to 14 months in jail. He appealed and lost. He appealed again and admitted to the crime, but offered new evidence claiming that he was suffering from a condition called “sexsomnia” and maintained that he was sleeping when he raped the woman.

The Ontario Court of Appeal granted Hartman a new trial. The trial began in April 2017 and concluded this week with a Judge ruling that Hartman is guilty of sexual assault.

WHAT HAPPENED?

In February 2011, the woman, whose identity is protected by a court order, was attending a house party in Spencerville, Ontario with her boyfriend. The couple fell asleep on an air mattress to sleep off all of the alcohol they had consumed before driving home.

Suddenly, the woman felt a strong pain in her buttocks. She realized that her jeans were pulled down and that someone was penetrating her anally while her boyfriend remained asleep.

Hartman gave evidence at his first trial that he crawled onto the double air mattress with a sleeping couple. When he awoke, he was alone on the air mattress with an erection and his pants were unzipped.

As the woman and her boyfriend drove away from the house party, she observed Hartman sitting at a picnic table in the garage looking wide awake.

During the trial, Hartman’s lawyer argued that his client was asleep during the sexual assault and was therefore not criminally responsible for his “involuntary” acts.

Hartman relied upon evidence provided by Dr. Julian Gojer, a forensic psychiatrist, who determined that Hartman was likely asleep during the assault. Dr. Gojer’s opinion relied upon a family history of sleepwalking and evidence from Hartman’s girlfriend who had once found Hartman masturbating beside her in bed while apparently asleep.

The Crown prosecutor relied upon affidavit evidence from a U.S. sleep expert Dr. Mark Pressman who opined that Hartman was likely awake, but drunk during the assault.

At trial, evidence before the court included the fact that Hartman had consumed as many as 21 alcoholic beverages during the party and that his blood-alcohol level was estimated to be three to four times the legal limit.

Judge Kimberly Moore rejected Hartman’s defence of sexsomnia and ruled that Hartman was “awake and aware” and his “actions were not involuntary” when he pulled down the victim’s pants and anally penetrated the woman without her consent.

 WHAT IS SEXSOMNIA?

Sexsomnia is a type of parasomnia, an abnormal activity that occurs while an individual is asleep. It is a sleep disorder that causes individuals to engage in sexual behaviour while asleep.

Sexsomnia is similar to sleepwalking and occurs during non-rapid eye movement sleep. Most individuals are experiencing such a deep sleep that they will not even remember that the event occurred the following day.

Sexsomnia was added to the DSM-5 in 2013, the American Psychiatric Association’s relied upon classification of mental disorders.

WHAT IS THE DEFENCE OF SEXSOMNIA?

In Canada, sexsomnia has been raised by defence lawyers as a legal defence in at least a dozen criminal cases since 2005. The defence of sexsomnia has resulted in a “not criminally responsible” ruling five times.

A 2003 incident that occurred in Toronto set the precedent for the sexsomnia defence in Canada when Jan Luedecke was found not criminally responsible after being accused of sexually assaulting a woman at a party by the Ontario Court of Appeal.  In 2009, Luedecke was granted an absolute discharge by the Ontario Review Board based upon two risk assessments by a forensic psychiatrist and a forensic psychologist. He was found not to pose a significant threat to public safety.

In another case, a man from Blue Mountain, Ontario was found not criminally responsible for the sexual touching of a young girl as a result of sexsomnia in February 2015. In June 2016, the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court ordered a new trial for a man convicted of sexually touching his younger sister on the basis of a sexsomnia defence.

Sexsomnia is a difficult defence as it requires a great deal of medical evidence, including expert testimony.

The victim of Hartman’s assault maintains that the assault has changed her life, her sexual relationships, her personal relationships, and her career path. Hartman will be sentenced on November 30, 2018.

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 offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.  We are available when you need us most.

 

 

 

 

 

Inmate Escapes from Healing Lodge in Saskatchewan

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Joely Lambourn (“Lambourn”) escaped last Friday afternoon from the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge near Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. Staff at the lodge discovered Lambourn missing during a routine count at 12:25 p.m.. A warrant is now out for her arrest.

Lambourn was serving a 2 ½ year sentence for dangerous driving causing death after being convicted of the death of a cyclist in May 2015 near Okotoks, Alberta.

At the time of the accident, Lambourn was a suspended driver and had a history of traffic violations for speeding and careless driving. The Judge found that Labourn was distracted while driving, likely by her cell phone, when she veered off the road and hit the cyclist, Deric Kryvenchuk.

WHAT ARE HEALING LODGES?

In 1992, the federal government passed legislation to allow Aboriginal communities to provide correctional services. This legislation was intended to improve the over-representation of Indigenous offenders in Canada’s correctional system and to address concerns that mainstream prisons do not work for Aboriginal offenders.

In 2017, more than 25% of men and 36% of women incarcerated in Canada were Indigenous. In all of Canada, Indigenous people make up 5% of the population.

Aboriginal Healing Lodges are correctional institutions where Aboriginal values, traditions, and beliefs are used to design services and programs for offenders. A holistic and spiritual approach is taken with guidance and support from Elders and Aboriginal Communities.

Healing lodges are minimum/medium–security facilities for Aboriginal women offenders. Healing lodges for Aboriginal men are minimum-security facilities. Non-Aboriginal offenders may also live at a healing lodge, but must agree to follow Aboriginal programming and spirituality.

Lodge residents have “healing plans”, similar to correctional plans. These specify areas the offender has to work on, which may include such issues as substance abuse, employment, education and family.

There are nine Correctional Service Canada (“CSC”) healing lodges across Canada. Four are managed and operated by CSC and five are managed by community partner organizations.

Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge for women offenders in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan is managed by CSC. This was the first healing lodge to open in Canada and it has 30 beds. This facility contains both single and family residential units. Offenders may have children stay with them. Each unit contains a bedroom, bathroom, kitchenette and eating area, and a living room.

Programs in this healing lodge help offenders build strength to make changes in their lives and address vocational training, family, and children. The offenders learn how to live independently by cooking, doing laundry, cleaning, and completing outdoor maintenance chores.

Before a decision is made to move an offender to a healing lodge, an offender’s risk to public safety must be thoroughly assessed. The inmate must require a limited amount of supervision and control within the institution allowing the offender to take on responsibilities as he/she is preparing to reintegrate into the community.

TERRI-LYNNE MCCLINTIC’S STAY AT A HEALING LODGE

Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge is the same facility that Terri-Lynne McClintic (“McClintic”) was transferred to earlier this year (the date is unknown). McClintic was only eight years into serving a life sentence for first-degree murder in the death of an eight-year-old girl, Tori Stafford (“Stafford”).

McClintic confessed to luring Stafford into the car of her boyfriend on April 8, 2009. Stafford was then sexually assaulted, murdered, and buried in a farmer’s field.

McClintic was transferred from the Grand Valley Institution for Women near Kitchener, Ontario to the healing lodge located in southern Saskatchewan.

McClintic’s transfer to the healing lodge generated passionate debate within the House of Commons and public outcry and protests. This quickly prompted changes to how the Correctional Service of Canada would decide on transferring inmates.

McClintic has been transferred back to a women’s prison in Edmonton. She is not eligible for parole until 2031.

TOUGHER RULES FOR PRISON TRANSFERS FOLLOWING MCCLINTIC TURMOIL

Earlier this month, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale ordered CSC to improve its policies related to the transfer of medium-security women offenders to facilities that do not have a directly controlled perimeter. These changes were effective immediately for existing and future cases.

Transfers will be required to be authorized by CSC’s deputy commissioner for women, under the new policy.

Factors considered in evaluating the suitability of transfers to facilities without a controlled perimeter, include:

  • The length of an offenders’ sentence.
  • The time remaining before an offender is eligible for an Unescorted Temporary Absence.
  • A requirement that long-term offenders be in the “preparation for release” phase of their correctional plan.
  • The institutional behaviour of the offender.

We will continue to follow any developments in the circumstances surrounding the escape of Lambourn and the transfer of McClintic as they become available and provide updates in this blog.

In the meantime, to speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about any 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.

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.