Theft

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.

Is Your Home Safe this Holiday Season?

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The holiday season is upon us and this means lots of Canadians will be travelling away from home. During the holidays, the potential for thefts and robberies increase. Each of us can reduce the risk to our homes and property from being victimized by eliminating the opportunity.

While you are away on vacation, its important to make your home appear inhabited. Here are a few suggestions to keep your home safer:

  • Reinforce your door locks;
  • Trim your trees;
  • Light up the night;
  • Install an alarm system;
  • Use timers to maintain normal lighting patterns;
  • Keep your travel plans off of social media;
  • Stop all mail delivery;
  • Arrange for a neighbour to cut the grass or shovel snow;
  • Cancel all deliveries during the time you will be away;
  • Maintain normal lighting patterns by using electronic timers;
  • Leave a radio on, with a timer if necessary, to simulate normal use;
  • Ask a neighbour to park in your driveway;
  • Arrange for neighbours to pick up flyers; and,
  • Lock your garage door.

Theft is a very broad category of legal offences found in the Criminal Code of Canada (“CC”). There are a number of other offences in the CC related to theft, such as:

  • Motor vehicle theft;
  • Breaking and entering;
  • Home invasion;
  • Theft while breaking and entering;
  • Unlawfully in a dwelling house; and,
  • Robbery.

WHAT IS THEFT?

The charge of theft has three components that the Crown (i.e. prosecutors) must prove:

  1. The accused took or converted the property;
  2. The accused did so without permission and without good faith belief that he/she had permission; and,
  3. The accused intended to do so.

The intent component is an important one so as to avoid charging individuals who accidentally or mistakenly take or use property that does not belong to them.

Punishment for theft depends upon the value of the stolen goods in question. A conviction for theft under $5,000 carries a maximum penalty of up to 2 years imprisonment. A conviction for theft over $5,000 carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.

WHAT IS BREAKING AND ENTERING?

Breaking and entering charges will be laid in cases where an individual enters or trespasses onto private property with the intention of committing a criminal offence. A break and enter offence usually occurs when someone is attempting to steal property, but the charge can be laid without any theft or damage to property. In fact, walking through an open door has been found to constitute “breaking and entering”.

The most serious form of break and enter is a “home invasion”, which occurs when an accused breaks and enters into a property knowing that there are people present and is prepared to use force or violence against them. The fact that the accused knew that the property was occupied is an aggravating factor that can be used during sentencing and will attract higher penalties.

Breaking and entering is considered a serious offence and punishment can be severe, especially if it is committed in relation to a dwelling house. If the offence was committed in relation to a dwelling house the maximum penalty is imprisonment for life. If the offence was committed in relation to any place other than a dwelling house the maximum penalty is imprisonment not exceeding ten years for an indictable offence or an offence punishable on summary conviction (maximum fine of $5,000 or six months in jail or both).

WHAT IS ROBBERY?

The offence of robbery shares some of the same characteristics as theft, but includes the component of violence. Thus, charges of robbery can arise if during the course of a theft the individual uses violence, threats of violence, a weapon, or imitation weapon to obtain property.

Robbery is a serious charge and is always an indictable offence (i.e. the most serious offence), which means it involves the right of the accused to have a preliminary inquiry and a trial by judge and jury, if the accused wishes to.

There are a number of factors that could affect the severity of the penalties imposed upon a robbery conviction, including the nature and use of any weapons; the degree of violence used; the injuries suffered by the victim; the vulnerability of the victim; the value of the goods stolen; and, the offender’s prior criminal record. An individual accused of robbery could potentially face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment (in the case where a firearm is used).

If you have been charged with an offence against property, as described above, it is imperative to retain a criminal lawyer immediately. 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.

Three Nova Scotia Men Face Charges in $3 Million International Lobster Theft

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In a uniquely Canadian development, the RCMP recently busted three men who were running what the Mounties have called a “complex and sophisticated operation” involving more than three million dollars’ worth of lobster.

What Happened?

The RCMP began their investigation into the operation in July 2015 when allegations came to light that a man had defrauded a lobster company of $175,000 during the previous fishing season. As part of their investigation, the RCMP investigated allegations by a different lobster company that claimed that they had been defrauded of more than $500,000 in the same season.

In the subsequent fishing season, the RCMP investigated fraud allegations made by three other lobster companies, including a third Nova Scotia company that claimed they were defrauded of more than $1.7 million and another one in Taiwan which claimed that they were defrauded of more than $250,000.

The three men at the center of the allegations were ultimately arrested last week. The RCMP has not provided any further details about the investigation, noting that none of the allegations had been proven in court as of yet. The police did mention that all three men have “substantial reach and influence” on both the Canadian and international markets, also stating that

“[lobster fishing is] a multimillion-dollar industry. And where there’s opportunity, there’s also crimes of opportunity. It seems as though that is what transpired here.”

The Lobster Industry in Canada

The lobster business is the most lucrative of all the fishing industries in Canada, generating more than $2.03 billion in revenue in 2015. Approximately 30,000 “harvesters” are employed in 10,000 licensed enterprises across Quebec and the Maritimes, with the biggest fishery being in Nova Scotia, where there are more than 3,000 people involved in the industry.

The RCMP investigation was carried out with assistance from other organizations, including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canada Revenue Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries.

Fraud and Theft

The three men are facing multiple counts of fraud over $5,000 and theft over $5,000. All have been released on conditions and are scheduled to appear in court on August 24th. We will continue to monitor developments in this case and will blog about updates as they become available.

Theft

Theft occurs when an individual takes or uses something that does not belong to them without the permission of the owner of that thing. Under the Criminal Code, theft falls into two categories: theft under $5,000, or, as in this case, theft over $5,000. Beyond the difference in value of items stolen, the difference between the two charges is the value of the stolen property and the potential punishment if the thief is found guilty. A conviction for theft under $5,000 can result in a maximum sentence of up to 2 years in prison, whereas a conviction for theft over $5,000 carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years.

Fraud

Under the Criminal Code fraud occurs when a person “by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means…defrauds the public or any person…of any property, money or valuable security or any service.” Like theft, fraud is divided into two different charges: fraud under $5,000 and fraud over $5,000. The maximum sentence for fraud over $5,000 is 14 years in prison.

If you have been charged with fraud, theft, or any related offense, contact the Oshawa theft lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905 404 1947. We will take the necessary steps to protect your best interests, both in the short and long term. We offer a free initial consultation to all prospective clients.