Victim surcharge will create ‘undue hardship:’ John Howard Society

Diane Crocker
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CORNER BROOK  Cindy Murphy understands the whole premise of a victim surcharge — it’s a meaningful one, she says, with the money raised going towards victims programs.

But the executive director of the John Howard Society of Newfoundland and Labrador is not so understanding of changes to federal legislation implemented in October that raises the amount of the fine a judge must impose and also makes the imposition of a surcharge mandatory.

“This mandatory victim surcharge, it flies in the face of common sense,” said Murphy. “There will always be people who are not able to pay it, and so then it creates what we call an undue hardship on this particular person.”

Murphy said she can see imposing the fine when people have the ability to pay.

“By all means to help people who have been victimized, but not to impose this undue hardship on people who you know will never be able to pay it.”

Murphy said her organization hasn’t heard many complaints on the new law, but figures that’s because it is so new. The legislation only applies to offences committed since October and many of those are just getting to the court stage.

Still it’s something the society is concerned about and monitoring.

In studying the issue, Murphy has found that many provinces have fine-options programs.

“Basically ... it diverts people who are not able to pay those fines into a program whereby then they have to complete community service.”

Murphy thinks something like that is needed in this province.

“There has to be an option and I think the creation of a fine-options program where people can serve community service in lieu of paying that fine would certainly make a lot of sense.”

She also said some courts have found a “loophole” in the legislation that they’ve used to impose timeframes of up to 50 years to pay as opposed to the 30 days outlined in the law.

Organizations: John Howard Society

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