Judge tries creative victim surcharge option

Ryan Ross
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John Douglas

A P.E.I. judge can now be added to the list of those trying to find creative ways around the federal government’s mandatory victim surcharges.

On Monday, provincial court Chief Judge John Douglas gave Bruce Stanley Martin a suspended sentence after crediting him for time served for failing to report to his probation officer. Douglas also ordered another year of probation.

But along with the sentence, Douglas was also required by law to order Martin to pay a victims of crime surcharge, which the federal government made mandatory in October, taking away the discretion judges previously had.

That change has left some judges around the country trying to find ways around imposing the surcharge, saying it can create unreasonable sentences in cases where people are unable to pay.

During Monday’s proceedings in Charlottetown, the court heard Martin is an alcoholic, has mental health issues and is unemployed, although he is making efforts to find work.

Douglas said Martin

had no ability to pay the surcharge but he had no alternative but to impose one.

Instead, Douglas said he recently learned that in the Northwest Territories some judges have a practice of ordering the surcharge with a penalty of one day in jail if the accused doesn’t pay it.

The judges make the surcharge payable immediately and consider the time spent in court as having served out the one-day sentence, Douglas said.

That was Douglas’s initial plan for Martin, but changed his mind after considering the clerical logistics and gave him one year to pay instead.

Despite not going through with it in Martin’s case, Douglas said his initial plan was something he would consider in the future for “appropriate cases.”

 

rross@theguardian.pe.ca

twitter.com/ryanrross

 

 

Geographic location: P.E.I., Charlottetown, Northwest Territories

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Recent comments

  • Observer from the East
    June 03, 2014 - 14:45

    He has a point - if the person cannot possibly ever pay the surcharge, what is the sense of enforcing it? I'd rather see them spend significantly more time in jail/prison

    • tax payer
      June 04, 2014 - 06:45

      Yes lets use our tax dollars to keep these idiots fed and warm. While chldren and elderly starve and freeze.

  • Pissed of Parent
    June 03, 2014 - 12:17

    My son was a victim of a sexual predator over a 3 year period. This judge thought that probation was a fitting punishment for the sick man that did it....only to be told during sentencing by the Crown that a ONE YEAR MANDATORY sentence was going to happen....Im so sick of this judge. ..wonder what the sentence would have been if he knew the victim.

    • SomeShame
      June 03, 2014 - 13:04

      Agree completely. Why should anyone fear our courts with this one at the bench? Just plead down every time, and you walk.

  • Chris S
    June 03, 2014 - 12:17

    Good. He made the right call. People need to ask themselves what good is an unpaid surcharge before second guessing this judge. There is an enforcement cost to every mandatory sentance. If he has to impose an impossible to recover fee he may as well just sentance taxpayers to the enforcement costs.

  • SomeShame
    June 03, 2014 - 11:55

    Mandatory sentences were created precisely to ensure judges like this don't erode the punishment completely from crime. This is like a dog trying to dig a hole under the fence erected to keep him in. I wish I was surprised, but in his case, we've grown accustomed.

  • Justin
    June 03, 2014 - 10:23

    The reason why the Feds imposed this charges and took away some powers from these lame judges is because the judges can't be trusted to the job they get paid to do. Maybe if the judges had done their jobs and imposed stiffer more severe penalties criminals would not be running things now.

  • WHATS NEXT
    June 03, 2014 - 09:50

    Where does PEI find these judges? First it was you can't go to jail if you have a job, then it was do your time on weekends at your choice, now it is no victim surcharge because they have no money. Where does it end, do you start making the victims pay for inconvience to those charged? Enough is enough, time to get some real judges whose only concern is NOT to bother those convicted.

  • Sharyn Mitchell
    June 03, 2014 - 09:39

    Once again it is all about the criminal and to hell with the victim. The victim surcharge was put there for a reason so why is this judge trying to find ways around it?