A victim surcharge is an additional – financial – penalty that convicted individuals face upon sentencing. The money collected helps to fund programs for victims of crime. If there’s a fine, the victim surcharge is an additional 30% of that fine. If there isn’t a fine, convicted individuals have to pay $100 for summary offences and $200 for indictable offences.
Judges find ways to get around Victim Surcharge
In October of 2013, the federal government made victim surcharges mandatory. In the years since then, several judges came up with creative ways to get around imposing the surcharge or have ignored it all together. Many judges object to imposing fines on impoverished offenders. For example, in 2014, an Ontario Court of Justice judge, David Paciocco, found that a $900 fine was grossly disproportionate that it would outrage the standards of decency. The offender was impoverished, Inuit, and had addiction issues. Justice Paciocco found that fining the offender $900 was cruel and unusual punishment.
Several other judges have followed Justice Paciocco’s example but recent appeals decision have upheld the victim surcharges as constitutional. This past September, Ontario Superior Court Justice Laurie Lacelle overturned an Ontario Court of Justice decision that found that the surcharge was unconstitutional. Justice Lacelle found that fining the offender $700 was not cruel and unusual under the Charter, even though the offender makes $136/month.
Although there are many judges and lawyers criticizing victim surcharges, at this point, they remain mandatory. That means that, in addition to potential jail time and a criminal record, convicted individuals can face steep victim surcharges depending on the number of offences. This is particularly troubling for low-income offenders.
The risk of an additional financial penalty on sentencing highlights the importance of having a lawyer to be on your side in court. Smordin Law accepts Legal Aid certificates and the lawyers have experience and sensitivity representing low-income offenders.