Judge tries creative victim surcharge option

Ryan Ross rross@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 3, 2014
Chief provincial court Judge 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

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