Vancouver, B.C. [October 14]—Pivot Legal Society has been granted leave to intervene in two cases to be heard by the BC Court of Appeal that will challenge mandatory minimum sentences.
Pivot will intervene in the cases of R v Dickey and R v Trasolini, both drug trafficking cases that involve the application of mandatory minimum jail sentences. Mandatory minimum sentences have been shown to disproportionately impact vulnerable groups such as women, aboriginal people, and people who come before the court as a result of their addictions.
“Mandatory minimum sentencing is a one-size-fits all model of punishment that unfairly targets vulnerable people,” says Adrienne Smith, health and drug policy lawyer at Pivot. “These sentences can amount to cruel and unusual punishment and infringe basic Charter rights. They cannot be allowed to stand.”
Chad Dickey was convicted in Quesnel, B.C. of trafficking cocaine in a dial-a-dope operation at a disused school. There is a mandatory minimum sentence in place of two years for drug crimes committed in or near a public place usually frequented by persons under 18 years of age. However, a BC Supreme Court Justice sentenced Mr. Dickey to 20 months probation after finding the Crown had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that children were present.
Marco Trasolini was convicted of trafficking $80 worth of cocaine in a Burnaby, B.C. park. The BC Provincial Court Judge struck down the two-year mandatory minimum sentence on the basis that it violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Instead, Mr. Trasolini was sentenced to eight months in jail. The Crown appealed in both cases.
Pivot’s submissions will be about the effect of mandatory minimum sentences on offenders from the community Pivot serves in the Downtown Eastside. Pivot will argue that one-size-fits-all, tough-on-crime approaches violate section 7 (life, liberty and security of the person) and section 12 (cruel and unusual punishment) of the Charter.
There have always been mandatory jail terms in Canada’s Criminal Code for very serious offences. The Conservative government has introduced dozens of mandatory jail sentences, most notably with the omnibus crime bill, The Safe Streets and Communities Act (SSCA) in March 12, 2012.
Pivot previously intervened in the Supreme Court of Canada cases R v Nur and R v Charles, which struck down mandatory minimum sentences earlier this year as they applied to firearms offences. The SCC found in those cases that the application of mandatory minimum sentences was “so excessive as to outrage standards of decency,” breaching the Charter section 12 protection against “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Pivot Legal Society has also applied to intervene in the case of R v Lloyd, which will be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2016. Mr. Lloyd was a Downtown Eastside resident subject to a mandatory minimum sentences for possession for the purpose of trafficking of three controlled substances to which he was addicted. A BC Provincial Court judge struck down the mandatory minimum sentence on the basis that it violated Mr. Lloyd’s Charter rights, but the government appealed.
No date has been set for the BC Court of Appeal hearing. Pivot is being represented by Claire Hunter of Hunter Litigation Chambers and Adrienne Smith of Pivot Legal Society.
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About Pivot Legal Society
Pivot Legal Society is a leading Canadian human rights organization that uses the law to address the root causes of poverty and social exclusion in Canada. Pivot’s award-winning work includes challenging laws and policies that force people to the margins of society and keep them there. Since 2002 Pivot Legal Society has won major victories for sex workers’ rights, police accountability, affordable housing, and health and drug policy.
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