HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Mandatory Minimums on Hold After Judge's Ruling
Pubdate: Thu, 20 Feb 2014
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2014 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Matt Meuse
Referenced: Safe Streets and Communities Act (S.C. 2012, c. 1):
Referenced: Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:


A B.C. judge is the latest to challenge Ottawa's tough-on-crime 
legislation, finding that mandatory minimum sentences for repeat drug 
offenders violate their Charter rights.

Judge Joseph Galati sentenced Joseph Lloyd on Wednesday to 191 days 
in prison for three counts of drug possession for the purpose of trafficking.

The sentence falls well short of the one-year minimum the law requires.

In a Jan. 24 ruling in the case, Judge Galati said in situations such 
as Mr. Lloyd's, a one-year minimum would constitute cruel and unusual 
punishment, prohibited by Section 12 of the Charter of Rights and 
Freedoms. Mr. Lloyd was convicted on drug charges last September. His 
defence argued that the mandatory minimum sentence was 
unconstitutional, leading to Judge Galati's ruling last month.

At the time, Judge Galati declared the law in question to be of "no 
force and effect" in B.C.

Provincial judges will be bound by his ruling in future cases unless 
it is overturned when it is appealed - and it is expected to be 
appealed. The province responded to the ruling Wednesday: "We will 
review the decision carefully and assess any implications it may have 
for prosecutions under provincial authority," B.C. Ministry of 
Justice spokeswoman Lori DeLuca wrote in an e-mail. The federal 
Department of Justice did not respond to requests for comment.

With the sentencing, Judge Galati adds a British Columbia voice to 
those of other Canadian judges who have refused to follow various 
aspects of the federal Conservatives' new laws.

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada began hearing the federal 
government's appeal of rulings in Ontario and Nova Scotia that took 
issue with the Truth in Sentencing Act. The judges argue the act 
restricts their sentencing discretion because it eliminates the 
practice of giving offenders 1.5 times credit for time spent in 
pretrial custody. Judges often offer this credit to reduce time in 
prison after sentencing.

Mr. Lloyd, a small-time dealer in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, was 
selling drugs to support his own addiction. The 25-year-old has 21 
prior convictions, including a drug conviction in 2012, making him 
subject to the one-year mandatory minimum sentence under the federal 
government's Safe Streets and Communities Act of November, 2012.

"This is a situation which happens daily in the Downtown Eastside of 
Vancouver and is in no way a far-fetched or extreme scenario," Judge 
Galati wrote in his Jan. 24 ruling.

"A one-year jail sentence [under these circumstances] ... is a 
sentence which Canadians would find abhorrent or intolerable," he 
wrote. Judge Galati also awarded Mr. Lloyd "enhanced credit for time served."

Mr. Lloyd's lawyer, David Fai, said Tuesday that mandatory minimum 
sentences are problematic because they remove judges' discretion. He 
said the federal government's enactment of mandatory minimum 
sentences was political.

"They get to say, 'We're tough on crime, we're going to make you 
safer,' when in fact we're all safer than we were 10 years ago anyhow 
because the crime rate is going down," Mr. Fai said.

Mr. Fai would like to see mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent 
drug offenders struck down altogether.
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