A Toronto paralegal has filed an appeal over a “disturbing” custodial sentence handed down in Provincial Offences Court recently. A Justice of the Peace handed the single mother six months on her third conviction for driving while under suspension, despite an unheard agreement on sentencing.
Kenneth Heath filed an immediate appeal and his client is released pending that appeal, later this summer.
“There are several levels of wrong” with the sentence and with the sentencing phase of the hearing, Heath says. “I want this issue to be reviewed. There was no accident in this case, there was no victim. Six months seems excessive to me.”
Heath says news of his client’s sentence travelled “like wildfire” through the courthouse. Licensees, staff and police officers expressed shock, he says.
“The prosecutor and I discussed probation and a fine, but we did not have a chance to make that agreement in principle for two years probation and a $2,500 fine. I had told my client that we should expect that she may get some time. The Justice of the Peace said six months. My client just yelled, ‘Oh, my God!’ and dropped down in her chair. Her kids were crying. It was awful.”
Heath’s client — who approved his speaking publicly about the decision — had two previous convictions for driving while under suspension, along with $21,000 in fines. Her licence had been suspended since 2000.
Heath ordered the transcript immediately. The Justice Of The Peace said:
“Mr. Prosecutor, in regards to this matter, I am very sympathetic to this young woman. She may be a single parent. She may have eight children. She may be the only financial support. She may be the only person who is providing for her family. Absolutely not, under any circumstances, will the court agree to anything but incarceration. I don’t care to hear about her welfare, her Ontario housing support, her disabilities, her health of her child or herself or her kitten or her dog or her cat, no.”
What’s particularly troubling is there was never anything said, “on or off the record” about her family situation, source of income, housing situation — or any pets, Heath says. “She has five children, she has a job and she does not live in subsidized housing.”
Heath says he will keep Paralegal SCOPE readers apprised of the status of the appeal.
NOTE: It is important to remember the Rules, and be careful in Comments not to bring the justice system into disrepute. The matter is under appeal and the licensee is examining options available on behalf of his client.