criminal law

Major Changes Proposed to Unclog Canada’s Criminal Courts

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Last week, the Liberal government proposed a new bill, Bill C-75, to modernize Canada’s criminal justice system and speed up court proceedings by amending the Criminal Code, Youth Criminal Justice Act and other laws. The changes include eliminating preliminary inquiries (except in cases of crimes that carry a life sentence), ending peremptory challenges in jury selection, addressing intimate partner violence, creating a higher threshold for bail and increasing sentences for repeat offenders.

Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the new bill aims “to make our criminal justice system more effective and efficient while respecting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. More importantly, it will make a significant contribution to a necessary culture shift in the way our criminal justice system operates.”

Here are some of the highlights from Bill C-75:

PRELIMINARY INQUIRIES

One of the most controversial features of Bill C-75 is the proposal to eliminate preliminary inquiries in the majority of criminal proceedings.

A preliminary inquiry is an optional hearing requested by either the accused or the Crown prosecutor. It is available where an adult is charged with an indictable offence and elects to be tried by the Superior Court. Preliminary inquiries determine if there is enough evidence to send the accused to trial. It is a process by which the Crown and the accused test the evidence to be used at trial.

Under the proposed legislation, only an adult accused of a crime punishable by life imprisonment would be able to request a preliminary inquiry. The preliminary inquiry judge would also be able to limit the issues to be considered and the witnesses.

The government justifies this proposal claiming that it will reduce the number of preliminary inquiries, thus freeing up court time and reducing the burden on some witnesses and victims. Specifically, this would protect sexual assault victims from having to testify twice – once at the preliminary inquiry stage and once at the trial.

This proposal will eliminate the number of preliminary inquiries by 87%. There are currently more than 9,000 preliminary inquiries held each year.

Many criminal defence lawyers oppose this proposal. They take the position that the preliminary inquiry process can eliminate cases that do not have enough evidence to proceed to trial. Furthermore, preliminary inquiries can save a lot of time down the road by narrowing issues, shortening trials and sometimes even eliminating the need for trials.

INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE

Under the proposed legislation, the more inclusive “intimate partner” wording would replace “spouse” and “common-law partner” and the definition would be broadened to include past partners.

Bill C-75 also introduces a reverse onus imposed at the bail hearing of an accused charged with an offence involving intimate partner violence and repeat abusers (rather than placing the onus on the Crown to make a case for keeping the accused incarcerated).

The new legislation would make strangulation an elevated form of assault (in conjunction with assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm) and allows a higher maximum penalty in cases involving repeat domestic abusers.

BAIL

Bill C-75 proposes to update and modernize bail practices by allowing police and judges more flexibility to deal with criminal charges.   Police would be given the authority to impose appropriate conditions on accused individuals without having to seek court approval.

JURY SELECTION

The impetus to rework the jury selection process in Bill C-75 comes in response to the public’s reaction to the acquittal of Gerald Stanley, which we have previously blogged about. In this case, an all-white jury found Gerald Stanley not guilty in the shooting death of Colten Boushie, a young Indigenous man.

The government proposes to improve the jury selection process and seeks to encourage diversity by abolishing peremptory challenges. Peremptory challenges allow defence counsel or Crown prosecutors to exclude a potential juror without giving a reason. The government maintains that ending peremptory challenges will prevent counsel from excluding minority candidates from juries. The proposed legislation will allow judges to decide whether to exclude jurors that have been challenged by either the prosecution or defence.

Bill C-75 still needs to be debated and approved before becoming law.  We will continue to provide updates regarding the status of this Bill as it becomes available.

In the meantime, if you have questions regarding charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison at 905-404-1947 or contact us online. We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24/7.

Appeal Court Upholds Parents’ Conviction in Son’s Meningitis Death

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A panel of Appeal Court judges in Alberta dismissed the appeal of a couple who were found guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their 19 month old son, who died of meningitis in 2012.

WHAT HAPPENED?

In 2016, David and Collet Stephan were convicted by a jury for failing to provide the necessaries of life in their son Ezekiel’s 2012 death. They had treated their son with natural remedies rather than taking him to a doctor when he had become ill.

A panel of Appeal Court judges in Alberta dismissed the appeal. Justice Bruce McDonald, writing for the majority, wrote,

This evidence supports the conclusion that they actively failed to do what a reasonably prudent and ordinary parent would do.

During the trial, jurors heard evidence that the Stephans used natural remedies and homemade smoothies containing hot pepper, ginger root, horseradish and onion rather than seek medical care. Ezekiel became too stiff to sit in his car seat and had to lie on a mattress when his father drove him from his home to a naturopathic clinic to pick up additional herbal supplements.

The Stephans did not call for medical assistance until their son stopped breathing. He was then rushed to a local hospital, but died after being transported by air ambulance to a Children’s Hospital in Calgary.

THE TRIAL AND APPEAL

According to the Stephans’ lawyers, the trial was a “battle of experts”. The Stephans argued that the convictions should be overturned because the trial judge erred in allowing too many Crown experts to testify, the medical jargon confused jurors, and the defence expert’s testimony was restricted. The majority of the Appeal Court dismissed all grounds of appeal.

The Stephans’ lawyers also argued that their clients’ Charter rights had been violated because of the unreasonable delay between the time they were charged to the date they were convicted. This aspect of the appeal was also dismissed with the Court finding the delay was not unreasonable.

DISSENTING OPINION ON APPEAL

Justice Brian O’Ferrall wrote a dissenting opinion in favour of a new trial. He felt that the trial judge’s charge to the jury was confusing and misleading. Justice O’Ferrall did, however, agree with the majority of the Court in finding that the Stephans’ right to be tried within a reasonable time had not been infringed.

SENTENCING

David Stephan was sentenced to four months in jail and his wife, Collet, was sentenced to three months of house arrest. They were both ordered to complete 240 hours of community service. The trial Judge also ordered that the Stephans’ three other children see a medical doctor at least once a year.

WHAT COMES NEXT?

Given that one of the three judges on the appeal panel dissented, the Stephans have an automatic right to have the Supreme Court of Canada hear arguments in their case. The Supreme Court has set a tentative date to hear arguments on May 15, 2018 for the couple.

The Crown prosecutors have filed their own appeal where they will argue that the couple should face stiffer sentences before another panel of Court of Appeal judges. A date for these arguments has not yet been set.

NECESSARIES OF LIFE

The Criminal Code of Canada requires that every parent, foster parent, or guardian is required to provide necessaries of life for a child under the age of 16 years of age.

A parent is responsible for the care, supervision, maintenance and support of his/her children. At a minimum, this obligation entails the provision of food and shelter. The Courts have also found that the failure to seek medical attention can be categorized as a “failure to provide the necessaries of life”.

The prosecution, in a case such as the Stephans, is required to prove that:

  1. The accused was under a legal duty to provide the necessaries of life to a child under the age of 16 years;
  2. The accused failed to provide the necessaries of life to a child under the age of 16 years;
  3. This failure endangered the child’s life or was likely to cause the health of that child to be endangered permanently; and,
  4. The conduct of the accused represented a marked departure from the conduct of a reasonable parent, foster parent, or guardian in the same circumstances.

We will continue to follow the developments in this case and will provide updates on this blog as they become available.

In the meantime, if you are facing charges or have questions regarding your legal rights, 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.

 

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.

Ontario Will No Longer Prosecute HIV Non-Disclosure Cases

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

We have previously blogged about criminal charges being laid against individuals living with HIV who fail to disclose their health status prior to engaging in sexual relations. Given the advancements in science and medicine in terms of treatment of the disease, we are beginning to see that changes are necessary to the criminal justice system.

ONTARIO GOVERNMENT’S ANNOUNCEMENT

On World AIDS Day (December 1, 2017), Ontario Attorney General, Yasir Naqvi, and Health Minister, Eric Hoskins, announced that Crown attorneys in Ontario will no longer prosecute cases of HIV-positive individuals who do not disclose their health status to their sexual partner if they have a suppressed viral load for six months.

World AIDS Day is recognized as a time to consider the impact that HIV/AIDS has had on Canadians and thank those dedicated to preventing the disease and caring for and treating those that the disease has impacted.

Over the years there have been remarkable medical advances and HIV treatment has slowed disease progression so that many HIV-positive individuals can now consider the disease as a chronic, manageable condition. The criminal justice system must now reflect the current reality of this disease.

HIV TRANSMISSION RISKS

Studies have found that sexual activity, whether using a condom or not, with an HIV- positive individual who is receiving prescribed treatment and has maintained a suppressed viral load poses a negligible risk of transmission.

Viral load refers to the amount of HIV virus in a person’s blood. Viral suppression is defined as suppressing or reducing the function and replication of a virus. Reaching viral suppression means that the amount of HIV in an individual is very low. Viral suppression can help HIV positive individuals live healthier and longer lives and can reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus to another person.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM RESPONSES TO HIV NON-DISCLOSURE CASES

The Supreme Court of Canada in the 2012 R. v. Mabior decision established that HIV-positive individuals have a duty to disclose their HIV status prior to sexual activity that poses a “realistic possibility of transmission”. The Court convicted Mabior on three counts because, although he had a low viral load when he had intercourse with three sexual partners, he did not use a condom. The Court found that Mabior met the test for “a realistic possibility of transmission of HIV” and therefore was convicted. At the time, the law was clear that HIV-positive individuals must disclose their status before engaging in sexual activity that poses a realistic possibility of transmission of HIV in order to avoid criminal liability.

However, the Supreme Court of Canada in the R. v. Mabior decision also recognized that scientific and medical advances regarding HIV/AIDS would progress over time and allowed for the law to evolve in the future as well.

Having reviewed all of the updated medical and scientific evidence, the Ontario government has decided that the criminal law should not apply to individuals living with HIV who have engaged in sexual activity without disclosing their status as long as they have maintained a suppressed viral load as the “realistic possibility of transmission test” is not met in these circumstances. An individual living with HIV who complies with their treatment is viewed as an individual who is acting responsibly.

In general, it is recommended by Canada’s Department of Justice that because the realistic possibility of transmission test is likely not met, the criminal law should not apply to:

  • Individuals living with HIV who are in treatment;
  • Individuals living with HIV who are not in treatment, but use condoms;
  • Individuals living with HIV who only engage in oral sex (unless other risk factors are present and the individual living with HIV is aware of those risks).

We will continue to follow any developments in the provincial and federal review of criminalization of HIV non-disclosure and will blog about updates as they become available.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer 24-hour phone service, 7 days a week for your convenience.

Cyberbullying Laws in Canada

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In this “digital age” and with the prevailing use of social media by an increasing number of Canadians of all ages, challenges exist for legislators and law enforcement.

According to a Statistics Canada study in 2014, the first of its kind in Canada, nearly one in five internet users aged 15 to 29 reported having been cyberbullied or cyberstalked. In 2013, the Federal Government took a step towards addressing cyberbullying in Canada following the suicides of Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd (where intimate images of them had been shared without their consent), when it introduced Bill C-13, Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act. This has significant implications, including jail time, for individuals charged under new provisions that have been added to the Criminal Code of Canada (“CC”) in the wake of Bill C-13.

WHAT IS CYBERBULLYING?

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying involving the use of communication technologies (instant messaging, social media, blogs, texting, or other internet sites) to repetitively intimidate, threaten, embarrass, or torment others.

This type of harassment, unlike face-to-face bullying, can occur 24 hours a day and is persistent and offensive. Due to the anonymity, people can say hurtful and cruel things and it is often harder to identify and stop them.

Examples of cyberbullying include:

  • Sending mean or threatening emails or text/instant messages;
  • Posting embarrassing photos of someone online;
  • Creating a website to make fun of others; or,
  • Tricking someone into revealing personal or embarrassing information and sending it to others.

CYBERBULLYING FOUND IN THE CRIMINAL CODE OF CANADA

The CC does not contain a specific provision for cyberbullying. However, when bullying behaviour crosses the line and becomes criminal conduct, the CC contains several provisions that can speak to these actions, including:

  • Criminal harassment (section 264);
  • Uttering threats (section 264.1);
  • Intimidation (section 423(1);
  • Mischief in relation to data (section 430(1.1);
  • Unauthorized use of computer (section 342.1);
  • Identity fraud (section 403);
  • Extortion (section 346);
  • False messages, indecent or harassing telephone calls (section 372);
  • Counselling suicide (section 241);
  • Child pornography offences (section 163.1)
  • Incitement of hatred (section 319);
  • Publication of an intimate image without consent (section 162.1); and,
  • Defamatory libel (sections 298-301).

PUBLICATION OF AN INTIMATE IMAGE WITHOUT CONSENT

As of March 2015, a new offence of sharing intimate images of a person without their consent was codified in the CC. This was legislated, in part, due to the increase in “revenge porn” and similar of sharing of intimate images online.

An intimate image is defined in section 162.1(2) of the CC as an image that depicts a person engaged in explicit sexual activity or that depicts a sexual organ, anal region, or breast. The image has to be one where the person believed that the photograph was private and did not consent to having it viewed by others.

CONSEQUENCES FOR PEOPLE ACCUSED OF CYBERBULLYING

The CC specifically sets out penalties for those convicted of publishing or transmitting an intimate image of a person without consent in section 162.1(1).

If convicted of distributing an intimate image without consent the legal consequences include:

  • Imprisonment for up to five years;
  • Seizure of their computer, cell phone, or other device used to share the image;
  • An order for the removal of intimate images from the internet if the images were posted without the consent of the person or persons in the image; and,
  • An order to reimburse the victim for costs incurred in removing the intimate image from the internet or elsewhere.

RECENT EXAMPLES OF CYBERBULLYING

As this is a relatively new offence, there are only a few reported cases that deal with this conduct.

In the Ontario case of R. v. A.C., the victim had taken nude photos of herself and sent them to the offender during their relationship who in turn shared the images because he wanted revenge. The sentencing judge in this case imposed a conditional discharge (no conviction is registered as long as conditions are met) with three years probation given that the offender expressed remorse and appreciated the impact that the offence had on the victim.  One of the terms of the probation was that the offender was not to possess any intimate images as defined by section 162.1 of the CC of any person who is known to him personally.

In the British Columbia case of R. v. P.S.D., the offender took two photos of the victim partially clothed, without her consent. The photos were sent to the offender’s two friends with the intention to cause the victim emotional harm. The photographs were found to be blurry and it was difficult to recognize the victim. The accused spent sixty days in pre-sentence custody. The sentencing judge found that there was a “relatively low level of harm” and imposed a two-year term of probation.

In the recent case of R. v. A.C., the accused pleaded guilty to the charge of sharing intimate images without consent. The sentencing judge found that the offender was not remorseful and did not appreciate how seriously the crime had affected the victim. Furthermore, the offender shared the images with the world, posting on more than one website. He also included the victim’s name, age, ethnicity, and place of birth. In this case, the accused was sentenced to five months imprisonment with a probation term of twelve months. He was also ordered to perform sixty hours of community service.

If you are facing criminal charges or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947. We offer 24-hour phone service, 7 days a week for your convenience.

How the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act Can Help Prevent Drug Overdoses and Deaths

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

There is an increasing number of Canadians overdosing or dying from the use of opioids. The Public Health Agency of Canada has estimated that at least 2,458 Canadians died from an opioid-related overdose in 2016, which amounts to almost seven deaths every day.

On May 4, 2017, the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act (“Act”) became law as part of the Government of Canada’s approach to address the growing number of overdoses and deaths caused by opioids (pain relieving drugs, including fentanyl). Many of these deaths are avoidable if medical attention is obtained quickly, but evidence demonstrates that witnesses to an overdose do not call 911 for concern of police involvement.

The Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, was quoted as saying,

During an overdose, a call to 911 can often be the difference between life and death. We hope that this new law, and the legal protection it offers, will help encourage those who experience or witness an overdose to make that important call, and save a life.

WHAT LEGAL PROTECTION IS GRANTED BY THE ACT?

This Act provides legal protection for individuals who seek emergency help or witness an overdose. An overdose is defined in the Act as a

 physiological event induced by the introduction of a controlled substance into the body of a person that results in a life-threatening situation and that a reasonable person would believe requires emergency medical or law enforcement assistance.

This Act can protect you from charges for possession of a controlled substance, i.e. drugs, under section 4(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

This Act also protects people in breach of the following conditions under section 4(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act:

  • Parole;
  • Pre-trial release;
  • Probation orders;
  • Simple possession; and,
  • Conditional sentences.

It does not, however, provide legal protection against more serious offences, such as:

  • Outstanding warrants;
  • Production and trafficking of controlled substances; and,
  • All other crimes not outlined within the act.

The Act applies to all people seeking emergency support during an overdose, including the person experiencing the overdose. It also protects anyone who seeks help, whether they stay or leave the overdose scene before help arrives.

WHAT ARE OPIOIDS?

Opioids are drugs with pain relieving properties that are used primarily to treat pain. Over the counter opioids (i.e. Tylenol 1) can be purchased at the pharmacy without visiting a doctor to treat minor aches and pains, like headaches or tooth aches. There are also opioids that are prescribed by a doctor to relieve medium to severe pain, like after surgery.

Fentanyl is an extremely strong opioid that is prescribed for people with extreme pain, like cancer, and should only be used under medical supervision.

This type of drug can produce euphoria, or a high feeling, which leads them to be used improperly. Examples of opioids that can be prescribed medications, such as:

  • Codeine;
  • Fentanyl;
  • Morphine;
  • Oxycodone;
  • Hydromorphone; and,
  • Medical heroin.

Doctors sometimes prescribe opioids for conditions, such as:

  • Acute moderate to severe pain;
  • Chronic pain;
  • Moderate to severe diarrhea; and,
  • Moderate to severe cough.

Dependency, substance use disorder and overdose are serious side effects and risks of using opioids. They have the potential for problematic use because they produce a “high” feeling.

WHAT IS AN OVERDOSE?

An overdose can occur when one has ingested too much of an opioid. Opioids slow down the part of the brain that controls breathing. If you take more opioids than your body can handle, your breathing slows, which can lead to unconsciousness or death. Signs of an overdose include:

  • Person can’t be woken up;
  • Breathing is slow or has stopped;
  • Snoring or gurgling sounds;
  • Fingernails and lips turn blue or purple;
  • Pupils are tiny (pinned) or eyes are rolled back;
  • Body is limp.

WHAT TO DO IN CASE OF A SUSPECTED OVERDOSE

In case of a suspected overdose, the following is recommended:

  • Check to see if the person is breathing. Look, listen and feel.
  • Call 911 immediately. Tell the operator that this is a suspected overdose, so the emergency crew can bring naloxone (a medication that can temporarily stop or reverse an opioid overdose).
  • Do not leave the person alone. Wait until help arrives. If you must leave, turn the person on their side to avoid possible choking.
  • Try to keep the person awake and remind them to take frequent deep breaths.
  • If you are concerned that people you know are using opioids, you can get a naloxone kit from the public health unit or a local pharmacy.

If you are facing a drug related charge or have any questions regarding your legal rights, 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.

 

 

 

What is Public Mischief?

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

There are many forms of “mischief” found within the Criminal Code of Canada (“CCC”) and we’ve previously blogged about some interesting situations in which such charges may arise.

Public mischief is one such charge. It involves a deliberate intention to provide false information to a peace offer, which leads to a formal investigation. This information can impede investigations, waste valuable resources, and result in individuals being wrongly accused for crimes they did not commit.

Public mischief is considered a very serious offence. Often prosecutors (i.e. the Crown) will seek a jail sentence and probation for even a first-time offender with no prior record.

PUBLIC MISCHIEF UNDER THE CRIMINAL CODE OF CANADA

Section 140 of the CCC reads as follows: 

140 (1) Every one commits public mischief who, with intent to mislead, causes a peace officer to enter on or continue an investigation by

(a)   making a false statement that accuses some other person of having committed an offence;

(b)   doing anything intended to cause some other person to be suspected of having committed an offence that the other person has not committed, or to divert suspicion from himself;

(c)  reporting that an offence has been committed when it has not been committed; or

(d)  reporting or in any other way making it known or causing it to be made known that he or some other person has died when he or that other person has not died.

WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS THAT MUST BE PROVEN TO ESTABLISH PUBLIC MISCHIEF? 

Before someone can be convicted of the offence of public mischief, it must be shown that:

  • They reported an offence;
  • Their actions or words were false;
  • They intended to mislead; and,
  • Their actions or words caused a peace officer to start or continue an investigation.

EXAMPLES OF SITUATIONS RESULTING IN PUBLIC MISCHIEF

There are several situations that commonly result in public mischief charges.

False 911 Calls

Most public mischief charges arise from false or misleading 911 calls requiring police, fire and/or ambulance assistance and those giving false statements to the police in an attempt to criminalize a third party. In these circumstances, the police and other emergency responders must proceed with an investigation, resulting in an enormous waste of public resources. The time and resources used to investigate these types of situations could otherwise have been used to assist those in actual need.

False Accusations of Assault

False allegations also commonly arise at a nightclubs/bars and are alcohol related. These false allegations take the form of assault, threats or stolen property.

Domestic Abuse

Another common circumstance where false allegations arise involves partner/spouse reports in the matter of domestic disputes.

Recent Examples in the News

A recent example of a public mischief charge comes from Saskatchewan where a woman and her husband tried to fake the husband’s death. The couple believed that if the police thought that the husband was dead, he would avoid prosecution of outstanding sex charges. A massive search took place involving a plane and underwater divers. In March 2017, Michelle Ross was sentenced and ordered to pay restitution after pleading guilty to public mischief in a fake missing persons case last year. She was handed a six month conditional sentence, which includes four months of 24-hour curfew and she was ordered to pay $10,000.00 to the Search and Rescue Association of Volunteers for the cost of the search. The husband also pleaded guilty to public mischief and obstructing a peace officer and was sentenced to three months in jail.

In July 2017, Ottawa police charged a 20-year-old man with one count of public mischief after he filed a false robbery report. The man was working as a security guard and reported having been robbed by a group of males, one of whom was reported to be carrying a handgun. The investigation determined that no robbery occurred.

CONSEQUENCES FOR PUBLIC MISCHIEF CHARGES

The Crown will almost always prosecute an offence of public mischief. Potential punishments are found in Section 140(2) of the CCC which reads:

140(2)           Every one who commits public mischief

(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or

(b)  is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

If the Crown chooses to proceed by summary conviction, the maximum punishment is 6 months in a provincial jail and/or a $5,000.00 fine. If the Crown chooses to proceed by indictable conviction, the maximum punishment is five years imprisonment.

Additional fines and probation may also be imposed. Restitution is also a possibility to compensate taxpayers. These amounts can range from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you are facing a public mischief charge or have any questions regarding your legal rights, contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience.

Saskatchewan Court of Appeal Refuses to Consider Pending Changes to Marijuana Legislation when Sentencing

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

 

The conversation around pending changes to marijuana legislation and how it relates to those tied up in the criminal justice system today continues to provide us with judicial decisions.

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal recently overturned a trial judge’s decision to issue a suspended sentence to a man, who was convicted of possession for the purpose of trafficking and trafficking over 20 pounds of marijuana.

A Lenient Trial Judge

At the man’s first trial, the judge considered existing sentencing guidelines and whether ordering jail time would violate the man’s rights under Section 12 of the Charter (which protects individuals from cruel and unusual punishment).

The judge stated, “I understand that my task is to approach the debate in a common‑sense way with a view to determining if the sentencing regime created by Parliament manifests itself in a grossly disproportionate punishment.”

The trial judge went on to consider a previous Supreme Court of Canada decision, which had found that “[Courts] should be careful not to stigmatize every disproportionate or excessive sentence as being a constitutional violation, and should leave to the usual sentencing appeal process the task of reviewing the fitness of a sentence. Section 12 will only be infringed where the sentence is so unfit having regard to the offence and the offender as to be grossly disproportionate.”

This left the trial judge to summarize “’Merely excessive’ is tolerable. It is only when the sentencing result reaches the frontier of “cruel and unusual” or “grossly disproportional” that the Charter remedy is triggered.”

The trial judge then examined the man’s history, which did not include any previous criminal activity. In fact, he played an active role in community involvement and was involved in both academic and business pursuits. The trial judge concluded “No larger good is served sentencing [this man] to jail. He poses no danger to the community. He has conducted himself well as a citizen but for this single unfortunate foray in the mire of the drug world. To be certain, as he attempted to engage in a criminal enterprise, his crimes are deserving of denunciation and deterrence. However, facing the reality that the product in which he dealt is to become legal, it should be said that the decibel level of such denunciation and deterrence may be less than it otherwise would be.” The man was ultimately issued a suspended sentence.

On Appeal

Prosecutors appealed the trial judge’s decision to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal., which reached a much different conclusion.

The Court of Appeal specifically noted the trial judge’s consideration of pending changes to Canada’s marijuana legislation, writing “After observing that the federal government was taking steps to legalize marijuana, he proceeded to sentence [the man]. The trial judge suspended the passing of sentence for two years subject to certain conditions.”

The Court of Appeal went on to state “Judges are bound to apply the law as it exists not as it might be in the future especially when, as here, it is unknown when the law will be changed, what the terms of it will be and how it will affect the offences of trafficking drugs or possession for the purpose.

The Court added “The possible future legalization of possession of marijuana can have no legal effect on the sentencing regime,” and, “it is an irrelevant extraneous factor that could, in this case, play no part in sentencing considerations. The trial judge’s reliance on this factor was an error of law.”

The man was ultimately given a sentence of 15 months.

To speak with an experienced Oshawa criminal defence lawyer about drug trafficking or possession of drug charges, call Affleck & Barrison at 905-404-1947 or contact us online. We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24/7. Trust our experienced lawyers to handle your defence with diligence and expertise.

 

Canadian Judges Urged to Consider History of Systemic Racism When Sentencing Black Offenders

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A Call for Greater Consideration

Canadian defence lawyers are urging judges to give greater consideration to how systemic racism may have played a role in the actions of black criminals, similar to the consideration given to aboriginals.

The National Post reports “Defence lawyers behind the push say asking judges to consider how historic discrimination and marginalization may have influenced their clients’ behaviour is not meant to be a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card; it simply gives judges a fuller picture of their clients before their fates are decided.”

R. v. Gladue

The consideration being urged is similar to the Gladue report, which judges, defence counsel, or Crown Attorneys are able to request during pre-sentencing or bail hearings of Aboriginal offenders.

Gladue reports stem from a 1998 Supreme Court of Canada decision, R. v. Gladue, in which the Court ordered “ it is incumbent upon the sentencing judge to attempt to acquire information regarding the circumstances of the offender as an aboriginal person.  Whether the offender resides in a rural area, on a reserve or in an urban centre the sentencing judge must be made aware of alternatives to incarceration that exist whether inside or outside the aboriginal community of the particular offender.  The alternatives existing in metropolitan areas must, as a matter of course, also be explored.  Clearly the presence of an aboriginal offender will require special attention in pre‑sentence reports.”

Conflicting Points of View

Wayne van der Meide, regional manager of case management and litigation for Legal Aid Ontario told the National Post that his organization wants to encourage Ontario judges to employ cultural assessments, allocating funds for test cases.

Nova Scotia has used cultural assessments in a small number of cases, and van der Meide stated that courts in Ontario have recognized that black people have faced systemic racism for decades, but this has always been done without a formal mechanism.

The hope of Van der Meide and others pushing for this type of consideration is that the Canada’s black population will cease to be overrepresented in Canada’s prison system. According to Vice News, 9.5% of Canada’s prisoners are black, compared to only 3% of the Canadian population.

However, Canada’s federal prison ombudsman, Ivan Zinger, says that he isn’t sure cultural assessments will do anything to change the black population’s overrepresentation in prison. He told the National Post that Aboriginal Canadian’s still account for 26% of Canada’s prisoners, while making up less than 5% of the population despite years of use of Glaude reports. He said “Adopting the same Gladue approach for Canadians of African descent may also not yield the desired outcome,” adding, “Investments in improving socioeconomic, cultural and political rights of vulnerable segments of the Canadian population may be a better approach.”

If you are facing criminal charges, contact the skilled Oshawa criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison online or at 905 404 1947. For your convenience, we offer 24-hour phone services and a free confidential consultation. We are available when you need us most.

Canadian Degrassi High Actor Arrested on Child Pornography Charges

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A former Degrassi High actor and three Ontario women are facing multiple charges, including possessing child pornography, sexual assault, and bestiality.

Jason (Byrd) Dickens, his wife, Dylan Anne McEwen, and two other women were recently arrested following a months long probe by police. Police stated that they initially received a tip about a man uploading inappropriate images online in January 2016. This led to a search warrant in late April, at which time police discovered several devices containing videos and images.

Police believe that Mr. Dickens and Ms. McEwen actively sought out victims online and in person, going by several user names including: RetroDeviant, Byrd_Dawg and Sir Dirk (Mr. Dickens), and Doll, Dirty Doll (Ms. McEwen). Mr. Dickens and Ms. McEwen will appear in Toronto court on Sept. 1.

Police also believe that between January 2000 and January 2006, Mr. Dickens and another woman sexually abused a child and distributed child pornography online. The woman is charged with 10 child sexual exploitation offences, and Mr. Dickens faces six more charges in that case.

Additionally, police allege that Mr. Dickens met a third woman from Thunder Bay, who also faces one charge of making child pornography.

Police are concerned that the individuals may have had contact with “like-minded individuals” and there may be more victims.

Potential Consequences

It is unclear what the outcome of these charges will be. However, child pornography charges are taken very seriously by prosecutors and police.

Child pornography is defined as any media (photo, film, other) that depicts sexual activity with, or that displays the sexual regions of, a person under the age of 18 (Criminal Code of Canada, s. 163.1(1)).  It is a crime to make, publish, or print child pornography. It is also a separate offence to distribute, to possess or to access child pornography, including sharing on or downloading files from the internet.

In 2012, Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, imposed higher mandatory minimum penalties for making, distributing, possessing and accessing child pornography. Sentences for any individuals charged under s. 163.1 of the Criminal Code all carry mandatory minimum sentences, and no discharges, suspended sentences, or fines are available. Penalties include jail time, and a sex offender registration, which can remain on your record for your whole life.

Protecting Children from Child Pornography

Safeguards for those under 18 have been increasing in recent years. In 2011, the government passed Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service. The legislation is intended to keep pace with technology used to distribute and access such content. It requires Internet service providers (ISP’s) and others (for instance, Facebook, Google, Hotmail, etc) to report any incident of child pornography.

Under this legislation, anyone can inform an ISP or other entity that a website, hostpage, or email contains child pornography. The ISP or other entity must then report the address of the site, page, or email as soon as possible to a designated organization or the police.

To speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about your rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.