An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Earl Dreeshen  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Report stage (House), as of March 3, 2011
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to establish that personating a police officer for the purpose of committing another offence shall be considered by a court to be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2011 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-576 this evening. I want to compliment the member for Red Deer for his bill and all his hard work on the bill. I know this is the second hour of debate on the bill. It will go to committee, and I know that our caucus members, by and large, support the bill.

The member for Windsor—Tecumseh, who will be speaking for our party, has indicated that he plans to introduce an amendment to the bill. I understand that the amendment will be favourably received by the member for Red Deer in this instance. So, it looks like the bill has a lot of potential to actually make it into law in reasonably short order, provided that the House does not dissolve into an election situation in the new few weeks.

The bill was brought about primarily because the member had a personal experience with someone in his constituency who was taken advantage of by someone who was impersonating a police officer by using flashing lights and wearing a police uniform. These were used as weapons to abduct a 16 year-old girl who had just earned her driver's licence and was driving alone. She was held captive for 46 hours and brutally assaulted before she managed to escape from her attacker.

The reality is that when we look for other examples of this type of activity, we see more activity like this than less. I am not sure whether it has to do with people watching too many movies on television or in the theatres, but the fact of the matter is that there are increasing numbers of instances where people are impersonating peace officers.

The bill would make impersonating a peace officer in the commission of another offence an aggravating circumstance to be considered for sentencing purposes. It would add one clause to the Criminal Code following section 130. Basically, it reads:

The Criminal Code is amended by adding the following after section 130:

If a person is convicted of an offence under section 130, the court imposing the sentence on the person shall consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the accused personated a peace officer for the purpose of facilitating the commission of another offence.

The bill directs the sentencing court to consider this as one factor when dealing with someone convicted of personating a peace officer. The sentencing would still basically be up to a judge, so there is no prescription here for minimum sentences or anything like that. On that basis, we are well disposed to the bill.

In terms of some of the other situations that are similar to this, impersonating a police officer is not something that is recent. We see this in history. People will remember the St. Valentine's Day massacre. Its anniversary will be coming up very shortly. It happened in the days of Al Capone when he had two of his shooters dressed as Chicago police officers. I think everybody knows and understands what happened in the St. Valentine's Day massacre. They managed to kill, I believe it was seven people of an opposing gang.

In addition to that massacre, there have been other famous situations, including one involving John Dillinger.

John Dillinger had someone impersonate a police officer in order to get out of jail. Someone impersonated an Indiana state police officer claiming to come to extradite Dillinger to Indiana. He escaped from prison that way. This is not unheard of in history. Those are two famous examples and I have others in Mexico that I could get into.

In more recent times we have seen a number of examples of people engaging in activity like this because the equipment is easy to find. People search out sirens, equipment and handcuffs on the Internet. They are available in security supply outlets and stores. People have been able to obtain these types of disguises and equipment in order to commandeer people.

There is a case where a woman pretending to be a police officer stopped a motorist on an Ontario roadway and extorted money from him on the basis that he was speeding. It is only fair that the government starts to take a tougher approach to situations like this because this is an expanding sort of phenomenon. Over the next few years we may see more and more of this unless we take some proactive action against it now.

I commend the member for Red Deer for the bill. I can tell him that we in the NDP will be supporting it. We think it is one step closer to being more than just tough on crime but, in this case, smart on crime. This is one of the limited examples where we can say that the government has been both tough and smart on crime in bringing forward this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2011 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, it is indeed an honour for me to rise and speak today in support of Bill C-576, promoted and sponsored by my friend, the hon. member for Red Deer. I join in the comments of the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona in congratulating the hon. member for his hard work on the bill and the likelihood that the bill will become law in a timely manner.

The bill has but one provision. It is a short bill, but it is an important bill. That provision would make the crime of personating a peace officer a mandatory aggravating factor in sentencing if the offence was committed for the purpose of facilitating any other offence.

Let me begin with the offence itself and a word about the terminology. The offence uses the term “personation”. This term was used when the offence was first enacted in 1913 and continues to be used today in the modern version of the Criminal Code.

In everyday speech, however, we often the use the “impersonation” rather than “personation” to refer to the act of pretending to be someone we are not. Members of this House should be assured that the two terms are synonymous. I will use the term “personate” because that is the language of the law and it is also the language of the bill before us.

Section 130 of the Criminal Code makes it a crime to personate a peace officer or a public officer. There are two ways that this offence might be committed. First, a person can falsely represent themselves as a peace officer or a public officer. This particular criminal offence requires a mental state associated with the acts and would therefore require proof that the person intentionally misrepresented themselves as someone if they did in fact not hold such an office. In short, the offence would require some evidence a person deliberately tried to deceive another person about their status as a peace officer or a public officer as the case might be.

The second way that this offence can be made is when a person who is not a peace officer or a public officer “uses a badge or article of uniform or equipment in a manner that is likely to cause persons to believe that he is a peace officer or a public officer”

Although worded differently, this second form of the offence is similar to the first form of the offence because both are based on a person falsely representing themselves as a peace officer or a public officer.

For example, a person falsely representing themselves as a peace officer would likely use a badge or other article of a peace officer's uniform or equipment. Likewise and similarly a person using a badge or other article of a peace officer's uniform or equipment that could lead others to believe that they are in fact a police officer is most likely deliberately misrepresenting themselves.

In both cases, some outward display of peace officer equipment would likely be present as would some evidence that the person's conduct demonstrated an intention to deceive others in regard to their true identity or status.

There is one additional aspect of offence which bears some consideration. The offence prohibits the personation of a peace officer as well as public officers. These are different terms, as I am sure members are aware. A peace officer is defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code and includes holders of particular offices, most importantly police officers and corrections officers. The public officer is also defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code and includes customs officers and officers in the Canadian Forces.

It should be noted that the aggravating factor proposed in Bill C-576 would cover situations where a peace officer is impersonated but not a public officer. The narrow application of the proposed aggravating factor makes sense from my point of view and from this analysis.

One can immediately see the purpose of the offence once its elements are understood. Public trust in various important government office holders and the institutions to which they belong is absolutely critical to the proper maintenance of society generally and key government functions such as income tax and customs collections, for example.

Any instance of a public officer or peace officer personation risks diminishing the public's ability to trust in these offices and institutions and risks undermining valid public functions. That is why deception in relation to one of these offices is prohibited no matter what the purpose of the deception.

For example, the proposed offence in Bill C-576 would cover personation of a peace officer to obtain information from someone or to gain easy access and entry into an establishment.

Thankfully, peace officer or public officer personation does not occur very often. Every year there are typically between 120 and 160 charges laid under section 130 of the Criminal Code of Canada. This is a very low number when compared to other sections. The conviction rate ranges between 30% and 50% of those individuals charged.

However, the use of deception with respect to peace officers is especially troubling. Public trust in the police is essential for the proper functioning of the criminal justice system. The integrity of the uniform and the public trust in the office must be protected in their own rights. That is the genesis and the reason behind the bill that we are debating here this evening.

Canadians trust our police officers and our instinct is to be polite and responsive and to accept the authority of someone who appears to be a police officer. A police personator can approach, interact with and assert physical authority over others relatively easily by exploiting the trust Canadians have in peace officers. The reality is that members of the public would likely acquiesce to the authority of someone they believed to be a police officer.

Deference to police officers is certainly something that I was taught at an early age by my parents, and I would submit that deference to police officers is an essential element of the rule of law. Can anyone imagine a situation in which society does not trust police officers and people ignore the red and blue flashing lights when a police officer is trying to pull them over? It would lead to chaos and anarchy. As a result, police personation can be used, sadly, as a tool to facilitate the commission of serious offences that otherwise might be more difficult, if not impossible, to carry out when individuals who are not peace officers pretend that they are.

In the rare instance where police personation is used to facilitate the commission of a serious crime, such as kidnapping, sexual assault, theft or unlawful entry into a dwelling, it represents an extremely disturbing exploitation of the public trust in police and an even more disturbing violation of the victim's rights and interests. Members will know that this government and this member consistently and continually attempt to promote the rights of victims, and I would submit to this House that this bill certainly is in keeping with that motivation.

It is this situation that Bill C-576 seeks to address. The bill clearly identifies the situation of the false and deceptive use of the trappings of a police officer in order to facilitate the commission of another offence as one that must serve as an aggravating factor in the sentence imposed on the offender.

It is important to recall that, in determining an appropriate sentence, the court must always take into account all relevant, aggravating and mitigating factors. Members who are familiar with sentencing law will know that paragraph 718.2(a) of the Criminal Code describes a number of aggravating factors that apply to all offences. These include evidence that the offender, in committing the offence, abused a position of trust or authority in relation to his or her victim. In addition to the factors specifically listed, the sentencing court always retains the discretion to determine if additional circumstances revealed by the evidence are aggravating or mitigating factors that should be considered before the sentence is pronounced.

I would submit that police personation for the purpose of facilitating the commission of another offence is unquestionably a factor the court would consider to increase the sentence for the personation offence. A court would invariably treat the use of deception for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a serious crime against the victim, such as abduction, an aggravating factor for the more serious abduction offence. In essence, both offences work to aggravate each other and the total sentence imposed for all the offences in such circumstances should reflect the full range of harm caused by the perpetrator and suffered by the victim in these extremely disturbing cases.

The court can already consider relevant factors as aggravating by virtue of its inherent discretion in sentencing, as I just mentioned, pursuant to section 718, but Bill C-576 would clearly identify this particular situation as one that must lead to a more significant sentence than if it were not present. The bill would expressly force the judge to apply his or her mind to personation and how it accommodated the commission of another offence. I hope all members will join me in supporting the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2011 / 7:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate at third reading of Bill C-576.

I had an opportunity to speak to the bill at a previous stage and expressed, as the official opposition justice critic, the position I am encouraging my caucus to take on this private member's bill, which is to support the bill.

We already know that the issue of identity theft has become almost an epidemic in Canada where people's identity is being stolen and frauds and thefts are being created.

What many people may not know is that in recent years there appears to have been an increase in the number of individuals who are personating peace officers in order to commit other crimes. There is the Penhold case, which was the subject of much discussion at second reading debate. My colleague from Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, who sits on the justice committee with me, gave an eloquent speech in which he discussed the Penhold case. That case resulted in an amendment to the Criminal Code in order to establish a five year maximum sentence for someone convicted of personating a peace officer.

This bill would add the conviction of personating a peace officer to be an aggravating factor or circumstance in the sentencing of that individual of other criminal infractions or offences for which that individual was been found guilty.

As was explained just before my speech by one of the Conservative MPs, someone who personates a police officer in order to unlawfully enter a home under the pretext of executing a warrant search to seize certain stolen property would be believed by the owners of that home to be an actual police officer and that the police officer had the legal right to enter their home and seize property.

There was an article in the newspaper about some incidents involving two young men in Montreal. In March 2010, the police arrested two young men with the intention of charging them with extortion, theft and personating a peace officer. They were alleged to have set up their SUV with a siren and other accoutrements that would lead one to believe that it was an official police vehicle and they would intercept motorists on the streets of east end Montreal and inform them that they were part of an undercover operation. They would check licences and papers and, if the motorists had an expired licence or permit, the two men would tell the motorists that if they paid some money they would let them go, otherwise they would seize their car and the motorists would have to pay the towing charges, the storage charges and any extra fines.

It is alleged that those two young men conducted such criminal activity over the course of approximately two weeks before a motorist became suspicious and called 911. The police were then able to apprehend the two alleged criminals, and I assume they have since been charged because in the report of March 3, 2010, the police spokesman said that they would be charged.

That is a case where innocent motorists, innocent citizens, were lulled into believing that they were dealing with actual police officers and that these police officers were corrupt. One must understand how reprehensible this kind of activity is.

I do not think there is anyone who would not understand how reprehensible that kind of activity is. Not only was a crime being committed, but an additional crime of personating a police officer was being committed in order to facilitate the commission of other crimes, whether they be crimes of theft, crimes of property or crimes against persons, such as sexual assault.

As the Liberal critic for justice, I am recommending that members of my caucus vote in favour of this bill. I think I have explained succinctly why I am in favour of this bill and why I will be urging my colleagues to support it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2011 / 7:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to rise today and close second reading debate on Bill C-576, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer).

I am very aware of the significance attached to a private member's bill that proposes changes to the Criminal Code of Canada.

This bill was motivated by a horrendous act of deceit and torture that occurred in my riding, and the heroic actions of a brave survivor.

This bill honours such victims by recognizing that the disarming actions of their assailants are to be considered as an aggravating circumstance, for which the courts should hand out more appropriate sentences.

I am grateful to all of my colleagues who have spoken to this bill and have expressed their desire to move it forward. I truly appreciate the outpouring of support that I have received from this House; and on behalf of the brave family in my riding that has allowed me to share their story, I thank all members.

I am pleased that we have this consensus and are prepared to have this bill proceed to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

As I have said, this bill is about sentencing. It speaks to the need for tougher penalties for this particular crime, in line with the fundamental sentencing principle of proportionality, which is stated in section 718 of the Criminal Code.

Victims must be assured that there will be serious consequences for criminals who have hurt them.

We need to preserve the trust and respect that citizens have for real, bona fide police officers. When citizens see a police uniform, they naturally trust and respect the authority that comes with it, and our laws must reflect this reality.

Therefore, we need to provide the courts the tools to deliver harsher sentences to criminals that breach the public's trust to cause harm.

I appreciate the contributions that have been made by all of my colleagues who have participated in this debate. I have taken under advisement the discussions surrounding the consecutive and concurrent sentencing.

If an offender were to receive a sentence for personating a peace officer, it might be served concurrently with another, lengthier sentence. Thus, a judge's finding of aggravation under section 130 may not be fully recognized in the concurrent sentencing.

On the other hand, consecutive sentencing would require the offender to serve each sentence, for each crime. These decisions, however, still rest with the courts.

I appreciate any input that the committee may have once it hears from potential witnesses. Any suggestions that would support the desired outcome, further the public's confidence in the justice system, and support the victims of this crime are worth considering. I would certainly take them under advisement.

The bottom line is that a sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.

Bill S-4 increased the maximum sentence for this offence and now we should give the courts this tool to exercise the new maximum in the most serious of cases.

We know that there have been a number of incidents across Canada of criminals impersonating peace officers. It would be premature to say that this crime is increasing in frequency, as it may just be that it is being reported more, but the severity of some of the crimes that are being committed alongside section 130 offences are disturbing.

Only a few weeks ago, we heard of another case in Ajax where three men dressed as police entered a residence, handcuffed six people inside and ransacked the home.

This is a continuing, widespread and serious problem in Canada, and we as legislators cannot ignore.

In closing, I would once again like to thank my colleagues for their support. I appreciate that they too recognize the timeliness and necessity of this bill.

Too often it seems that Canadians only hear in the media about the negative aspects of Parliament; that there is little co-operation or consensus in this place. This is not true.

As members know, there are many times that we as parliamentarians are able to work together in non-partisan ways to improve the lives and safety of Canadians. This is one of those times. Let us work together and recognize our spirit of co-operation.

I look forward to working with the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights where we can further our discussion.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 4th, 2010 / 5:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

moved that Bill C-576, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak during this hour of debate to my Bill C-576, which deals with the crime of personating a peace officer.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga for seconding this bill. I am grateful to my colleagues in the House who recognize the merit of this minor yet important addition to the Criminal Code.

I was inspired to table this bill following a horrible crime that took place in my constituency. The offender was charged, tried, convicted and sentenced. The case is no longer in the court. But I have had discussions with the victim of this crime and I would like to talk about what I have learned.

Flashing lights and a police uniform were used as weapons to abduct a 16 year old girl. She had just earned her driver's licence and was driving alone, as many of us do. She was held captive for 46 hours and brutally assaulted before she managed to escape from her attacker. She was brave. She survived.

It is a fact that she was abducted because she was led to believe that she had been pulled over by a police officer. When citizens see a police uniform, they naturally trust the authority that comes with it. Personating a police officer is a serious breach of the public's trust, and it has the same effect as using a weapon. It forces the victim to submit.

This crime involved personating a police officer, but I recognize that there are other occupations besides police officers that serve to keep the peace in our great country and they are all covered by the Criminal Code's definition of a peace officer.

As I describe the specific points of this bill, let me start by explaining the definition of peace officer in the Criminal Code. They are positions that demand a significant amount of trust from the Canadian public. Anyone who falsely represents these occupations to commit a crime against a person is committing a serious breach of that person's trust and that of all of us.

The Criminal Code defines peace officers as Canadian officers of customs and excise, immigration, corrections, fisheries and the Canadian Forces. It includes pilots in command of an aircraft, mayors, wardens, reeves, sheriffs, justices of the peace and, of course, police officers.

When I began researching this issue I found that what had happened in Penhold and Red Deer was not a rare crime. This is happening in small towns and large cities all over Canada. Criminals are using authentic police lights and dressing in police uniforms in crimes such as auto theft and fraud in Kelowna; highway robbery in Oakville, Barrie and Brampton; assault and robbery in Ottawa; abductions in Scarborough and Calgary; break and enter and subsequent assaults in Sydney Mines and Oshawa; intimidation in Mississauga; unlawful confinement in Lethbridge; and fraud in King's County, Brantford and Toronto.

This bill has a basic objective. It would make personating a peace officer in the commission of another offence an aggravating circumstance to be considered for sentencing purposes. It would add one clause to the Criminal Code following section 130. Because it is short, I would like to read my bill into the record:

1. The Criminal Code is amended by adding the following after section 130:

130.1 If a person is convicted of an offence under section 130, the court imposing the sentence on the person shall consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the accused personated a peace officer for the purpose of facilitating the commission of another offence.

That is all. It does not seek to affect any interpretation of the crime. My bill would simply direct a sentencing court to consider this as one factor when dealing with someone convicted of personating a peace officer.

In carrying out the objectives of sentencing, which are in section 718 of the Criminal Code, a judge can take into account aggravating circumstances, which tend to increase the length of a sentence, or mitigating circumstances, which tend to shorten the length of a sentence.

There are aggravating circumstances that are defined in section 718 that apply to all offences and there are also special cases of aggravating circumstances that apply to specific offences within the code. But to clarify, this bill seeks to be a special aggravating circumstance for a sentencing court to consider for the crime of personating a peace officer.

The decision of what sentence is appropriate always rests with the court, but it is our role as legislators to maintain the Criminal Code and establish sentencing provisions. I note that this offence used to be punishable as a summary conviction and had a maximum penalty of only six months' imprisonment.

This Parliament passed into law former Bill S-4, which increased the maximum penalty for this offence to five years' imprisonment and made it a hybrid offence. I commend the Department of Justice for its work on increasing the maximum sentence for this crime, which came into force on January 8 of this year. I applaud all of my colleagues in the House who voted in favour of Bill S-4 and brought this change into law.

On behalf of the people Red Deer, I was proud to vote for Bill S-4. I am also proud to support all of the government's tough on crime initiatives. Bill S-4 successfully tackled the problem of identity theft and fortunately, it also significantly addressed the problem of lax sentencing for personating peace officers. This was absolutely justified, as predators are deliberately posing as peace officers to lure their victims. I believe that with this increased maximum sentence, we must now also recognize that this crime can have varying degrees of harm as well, and should be penalized accordingly.

A number of factors come into play in a sentencing decision, such as the criminal record of the offender or the severity of harm caused to a victim. Aggravating circumstances are just one more factor that sentencing judges are required to consider that tend to, but are not guaranteed to, increase the severity of the sentence.

When we look at aggravating circumstances that are in section 718 of the Criminal Code, one of them is evidence that the offender, in committing the offence, abused a position of trust or authority in relation to the victim. This would apply in situations where an offender has an existing relationship with the victim, such as a teacher or a coach, or indeed a bona fide peace officer.

However, those who personate peace officers do not fall into this category. I have many esteemed colleagues in the House who are legal experts. I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that offenders who personate peace officers have not abused a position of authority, for they do not have that position to begin with. This circumstance in section 718 cannot be used, since this would apply to real police officers who would abuse their position of trust. It does not apply to those who are posing as police officers.

If I may reiterate, an offender's false representation of himself or herself as a peace officer is intended to deceive and breach trust and authority, but this deceit is not captured by the existing circumstances that speak to these abuses. I hope that my colleagues in the House will recognize this gap in the law and work with me to fill it as my bill seeks to do.

The House is graced with some former police officers who bring valuable experience to our debate on justice issues and many other issues. I have had discussions with these hon. members about my bill, and I appreciate their support, for they have the unique perspective of having served as police officers. They are very busy people, but they have taken the time to read my bill and offer their support, and I thank them for that.

Police officers are often victims themselves. They serve us all with great courage. They keep us safe from those who would do harm and rarely see justice for crimes that are committed against them personally. We know that the Crown sometimes drops charges of assault against police officers to obtain guilty pleas. As victims who have not been vindicated by the courts would surely confirm, it must be an agonizing outcome for someone to personally deal with, no matter who the person is. I want to recognize and honour all peace officers in Canada. They are all affected by the crime that we are discussing today.

People who have been hurt by someone posing as a police officer understandably would become fearful and have difficulty trusting real police officers. This is very unfortunate, as it affects these victims every single time they encounter a real police officer. It also affects police who are trying to do their job.

There was a case in Calgary where a man personated a police officer and used flashing lights to attempt to pull people over to abduct young females. CBC News quoted a sergeant with the Calgary Police Force who stated that the false representation of a police officer was “a very serious offence”. He went on to say, “We cannot have our confidence in the public eroded. It is very important that we are able to conduct our jobs, and if people do not trust the police or they are worried, it can make our jobs very difficult”.

As that police officer stated, this is a serious crime that has far-reaching consequences, which is further proof that the government did the right thing by significantly increasing the maximum penalty for this crime as former Bill S-4 did.

Police will often remind the public how we can recognize if someone is actually posing as an officer. As police have said, they always carry photo ID and badges. People should never be opening their doors or get our of their cars without seeing photo ID and a badge. An officer will show these when requested. If Canadians are in doubt as to whether or not someone is actually a police officer, they are advised to call 911.

For 34 years I worked with children and young adults. As their teacher I shared their joys of accomplishment as well as their concerns about the future. I was always there to help them through difficult times when they had to deal with terrible ordeals, being a receptive ear to their voices gave me an understanding of how difficult and fragile life can be.

As a member of Parliament I have once again heard such a voice. I shared the same concerns as others in our community when I heard of the disappearance of a young girl from Penhold. Prayers were all that I could offer. No one knew why her car would be left where it was. There was nothing to indicate that she would have strayed from the errand that she was on, nothing. Her parents were frantic and our community of central Alberta empathized while we all waited. Finally the news broke. She had been found.

Only then did the pieces of this horrible ordeal start to make sense. The weapons used by her attacker were flashing lights and an RCMP uniform. That is why the car was left where it was. Her trust of the uniform and the false sense of safety and authority that it presented to her resulted in the most horrendous 46 hours that anyone could imagine.

The subsequent trial of her abductor forced the girl and her family to relive this ordeal. Finally a verdict and a sentence was rendered, but two things haunted them: first, the knowledge that the crime of personating a peace officer amounted to only six months' imprisonment, which was the maximum sentence allowed before the passage of Bill S-4; and second, that in the commission of this crime the weapons used to lure her into a trap would not be recognized for what they really were. She had been deceived of the trust she had in the police and the weapon of deceit was considered as more of a side issue than being the catalyst for the crime.

Personating a police officer to force someone to do something in the hands of a criminal is just as effective as pointing a firearm. It is no less aggravating than breaking and entering with the knowledge that a residence is occupied nor many of the other situations that fall into the category of aggravating circumstances. It is no different to a victim than having been abused by a real, existing position of authority.

Crimes involving firearms and break and entering with intent to encounter a resident necessitates special circumstances in the courts. They are rationalized as aggravating circumstances to ensure that they are treated as seriously as they should be. This is what my bill is designed to do.

As it now reads in section 130 the crime is in the deception of the public about a person's status as a peace officer. It does not differentiate whether or not it was for a specific purpose of facilitating another crime or whether or not another crime is actually attempted or committed. In cases where the deception is intended to and in fact does facilitate the commission of another more serious crime, this is an extremely serious instance of the offence of personating a peace officer and therefore deserves an appropriately high sentence. This bill would give the sentencing courts the tools they need to apply appropriate sentences in these cases.

The day that this brave young lady and her mother came to me for help was the day I knew that my receptive ear that was necessary as a teacher would also be part of my job as a member of Parliament.

I appreciate the help that has been provided to me by representatives in the justice department, the Minister of Justice and the rest of my caucus. I would also like to acknowledge the great work of the talented researchers in the Library of Parliament. I also appreciate the support and understanding that I have received from my colleagues in other parties.

It is my hope that all of my colleagues can recognize the importance of this bill and will see that it is worth supporting.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 4th, 2010 / 6:10 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Red Deer for Bill C-576. I believe that we will be supporting the bill as well. I believe our critic, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, has spoken to the member about a potential amendment that may be able to be accomplished at committee.

Before I had researched this subject, I was only familiar with this sort of activity relating to the St. Valentine's Day massacre, John Dillinger and issues in Mexico and so on. When I looked into it, I was surprised to find many recent examples of this activity going on. I did not expect to find that many cases, just in this year alone. Clearly, it has either been a problem that has been around a long time or we have just become aware of it in the last little while, but certainly his bill is on the right track.

I would ask him to tell us whether there have been many more examples than what we currently know about.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 4th, 2010 / 6:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to rise and speak to this initiative. It is a very case-oriented position.

If we are not reacting as members of Parliament to real situations that happen in our communities, and reacting in a compassionate and thoughtful way, then what are we doing here?

The bill seeks to amend section 130 of the Criminal Code, which provides for the offence of personating a police officer or a public officer. The phrase in the Criminal Code has existed since the inception of the code itself. The code states:

Everyone who

(a) falsely represents himself to be a peace officer or a public officer, or

(b) not being a peace officer or public officer, uses a badge or article of uniform or equipment in a manner that is likely to cause persons to believe that he is a peace officer or a public officer, as the case may be,

is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

That offence originally carried a maximum penalty of six months. In 2009, it was amended to carry a maximum sentence of five years by indictment and no time limit for a summary conviction. I am drawn by his example of Penhold. I am curious.

The Liberal members of the justice committee have decided to support this bill and send it to committee. At committee, however, we will have many questions.

This bill was driven by a desire to address the Penhold incident, in which the criminal pretended to be a police officer in order to persuade a person off the road and into the woods, where he committed a heinous crime. We have to make sure that this bill reacts to this incident appropriately.

In the Penhold case, we have to examine whether the criminal received concurrent or consecutive sentences. He was convicted of the much more serious offence of aggravated sexual assault and received a very long jail sentence. He also received a sentence of, I believe, six months for personating an officer under section 130.

I want to explain why this is important. Usually, in my limited experience with criminal law, a judge will look at the most serious offence and will say, “We need to remove this person from the community because he or she committed a very serious offence.” In this case, I believe it was 16 or 18 years, indicating that the judge thought it was a very serious offence and removed that person from the public subject to statutory release.

He also accepted that the accused was guilty of personating an officer, which at that time carried a sentence of six months. Did the judge make them run concurrently, the 6 months and the 18 years, or did he take the 18 years, 17.5 years, and add the 6 months?

My experience tells me, looking at the case briefly, that the sentences would run concurrently, not consecutively. In other words, the fact that there was a guilty finding on the personation aspect of the case did not lengthen the sentence.

The amendment to the code, which says there should be aggravating circumstances considered in the section 130 offence of personating an officer, could lengthen the sentence in these situations. But if the judge still makes the two sentences run concurrently, even if there were two years given for personating in the same situation, and 18 overall for the violent sexual assault, there would still be an 18-year sentence.

This is one of the questions we have to ask at committee. We have to do our due diligence in support of this bill to make sure that it is delivering the goods to the good people involved, the victims. That would be one of our first questions at committee.

The motivation for this was due to the victim's bewilderment, perhaps the general public's bewilderment, in regard to the case. The thing that started it was the personation, and that got only six months. There is something wrong with that, because it was such an egregious offence.

The amendment came in 2009, and we now know that the maximum is five years. If we were pretending to be judges, would we give the personation aspect of this crime five years, with 18 years for the aggravated sexual assault, which lasted for some 46 hours? It is difficult to know whether these sentences would be different under this law. I think the drafter of the bill intends that they would be. In these circumstances, the uniform and the cruiser lights should be an aggravating factor in the section 130 offence of personating an officer. Without the personation, the sexual assault would not have happened.

I understand the motivation for the bill. But we have to remember that a police officer and a prosecutor can lay an indictable charge for this offence, and that a judge can impose a sentence of up to five years for personating a police officer. We have to think of all the situations that do not lead to egregious offences. Someone who personates a police officer with no resulting crime is very unlikely to get a five-year sentence.

Clearly, the drafters on the government side increased these maximum sentences to five years. It was a government bill. They had the idea that these offences alone could be very serious, but that the important thing was to deter the commission of further offences. Why else would someone personate a police officer? There are many cases, other than George Leahy on Trailer Park Boys, in which some clearly unstable people personate police officers. But some people personate them without any ulterior intent of doing serious harm. In this case, it was used to do very bad things to Canadian citizens.

In cases where someone is not going to use the personation to do something further, there would not likely be as harsh a sentence. However, I believe the government was thinking that, if personation was coupled with another offence, the judge, the prosecutor, and the police ought to have the discretion to make this a very serious offence.

There are reported cases in our communities of people personating police officers to get entrance into offices, homes, and private businesses. They are personating police officers to gain the trust of young people. They are personating police officers to steal money from charitable organizations. All these things are happening and they are serious offences. There are gradations, however. And though they are not as serious as the Penhold case, I think Parliament was thinking that the five-year sentence would be imposed when the personation led to a serious offence. We need to make sure at committee that this is enough.

Bill C-576 simply says that the judge “shall consider this as an aggravating factor”. It is not permissive. It is not “may”. It is something the committee might want to look at. In the end, we have to have faith in our judicial system and in the judges who apply it.

In conclusion, I commend the member for drawing the attention of the House to section 718. Every justice bill that comes through the House should be in the lens of section 718, which sets out the principles of sentencing. These are based on denunciation, the removal of a convicted person from the community, rehabilitation, deterrence, and restitution. Without this balance, none of these laws make sense. I commend my friend for bringing such a thoughtful bill to the House, and we will certainly send it on to the committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 4th, 2010 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-576, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer). The bill seeks to amend section 130 by adding the following:

If a person is convicted of an offence under section 130, the court imposing the sentence on the person shall consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the accused personated a peace officer for the purpose of facilitating the commission of another offence.

I want to acknowledge the good work that the member for Red Deer has done on this. I am sure the pain and suffering for the family would have prompted the member to take some action.

I want to refer to the section that is being amended. Section 130 states:

Everyone...who

(a) falsely represents himself to be a peace officer or a public officer;

or

(b) not being a peace officer or public officer, uses a badge or article of uniform or equipment in a manner that is likely to cause persons to believe that he is a peace officer or a public officer, as the case may be....

is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

The member for Red Deer ably outlined the terrible circumstances that led him to propose his private member's bill. It stemmed from an incident that took place in his riding in 2009, where a 16-year-old girl was abducted and sexually assaulted by an individual who posed as a police officer.

The individual pleaded guilty to several charges and was given an 18-year sentence for kidnapping. He was also sentenced to six months for personating a police officer but, and this is the piece that is troubling for people, that sentence would run concurrent to his other sentence. Many in the community felt that it should have been made consecutive.

There is one thing each and every one of us takes to heart. As a mother, when my son was young, I used to tell him that if he ever was separated from me, he should go to a police officer. We talked about what a police officer looked like and I showed him pictures. What becomes really important is this element of trust. It is fundamental to our justice system that we look to our police officers to protect us and to be safe people so we can tell young people to go to them when they need help.

The kinds of incidents that we are seeing are, sadly, not isolated incidents, and I will talk about a couple of others. If they were isolated incidents, we could take care of it. What we are doing is undermining the trust people have in our police forces.

The other element of this, before I talk about some specific cases, is this is a really important opportunity to educate people. As the member for Red Deer rightly pointed out, every police officer has certain protocols and procedures that he or she undertakes when stopping people, such as showing identification, having a badge and a number of other things.

It is an important aspect of the debate in the House to remind people that they also have rights when they are being stopped by who they believe is a police officer. They should always be comfortable in taking the step of contacting their local station or calling 911 to verify that the person they are interacting with is actually an officer.

I want to touch on a couple of other instances. One example was in the Hamilton Spectator in October. A man was stopped by a woman and the woman who pulled him over was not dressed in an officer's uniform, but her demeanour and questions led him to believe she was a police officer. The fake officer demanded that the man pay the speeding fine on the spot. He did not have enough money with him and subsequently went to an ATM to withdraw cash. It is also a good reminder that people personating police officers are not just men. They are also women.

In Kelowna in May, police were trying to find out who was responsible for stealing a car by impersonating a police officer and trying to defraud the car owner. The women called to report the theft and also reported that a so-called police officer on the phone had asked for her bank card and personal identification number so he could secure her bank cards. The real police officer who responded to the theft report knew that questioning about bank information was not what police would ask in an investigation and told the woman to cancel her bank cards immediately.

That is a really important reminder. As the article in the Kelowna Capital News reports, the fact is no authentic police officer will ask someone to hand over cold, hard cash on the spot, nor will he or she ask for bank card information.

There is the case in Mississauga where a Mississauga councillor candidate is charged with impersonating a police officer and trying to intimidate a rival candidate to abandon her campaign. Sometimes we have public figures who are, sadly, misusing their position to do something like intimidation.

There was another case in Alberta where a man impersonated a Mountie and used his phoney authority to terrorize two university students. He has been sentenced to two and a half years in jail. Around 4 a.m., he entered a 7-Eleven store, identified himself to the clerk as a police officer and asked to use the phone. The clerk became suspicious and immediately contacted the Lethbridge Regional Police. Here we have an example where somebody who was suspicious about whether or not this person was a valid police officer. The clerk took the steps, and we need to encourage people to do this, and contacted the Lethbridge Police Department to ensure that the store was dealing with somebody who had the authority to be there.

The Globe and Mail talked about an officer is defrauding students. I know many of us have probably seen these emails that go around, asking people to send money because somebody is in trouble. In this case, the police were warning the public to be on the lookout for a man who was pretending to be a Chinese police officer and was defrauding Chinese students. The police allege the man contacted his victims and then, under the guise of conducting a security check or investigation, asked for personal banking information, such as a PIN numbers or security codes.

There are a lot more of these circumstances.

Others have pointed out that some questions need to be raised at committee.

The NDP will be supporting the bill going to committee. I know the member for Windsor—Tecumseh has talked to the member for Red Deer and has told him we support sending it to committee. However, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh said that he had some concerns that the present wording would not likely achieve the desired outcome, particularly as most judges would already consider personating a police officer as an aggravating circumstance.

The member for Windsor—Tecumseh is proposing amending the bill to require the judges to provide a rationale if they did not make a section 130 offence consecutive to any other offence. The reason he has proposed this is it would make the action explicit. When judges made the sentencing, they would explicitly state that they had considered the aggravating circumstances and that there was a rationale for making the sentence concurrent rather than consecutive. Also, he wants to maintain the confidence the public has in the justice system, that there is some credibility. It should be explicitly stated that the judge has considered the aggravating circumstances when making the sentence and it would be part of the decision being rendered.

I acknowledge the good work the member for Red Deer has done on this matter. It is an important matter to raise in the House. When it goes to committee, I am sure there will be opportunities for witnesses to come and talk about the impact on their lives and their families. We will also hear from other members of the House about how the bill can be improved to ensure it has the intended effect, which I am sure the member for Red Deer is interested in achieving. We will be supporting the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 4th, 2010 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-576, which deals with the offence of personating a peace officer. The offence essentially criminalizes the act of pretending to be a peace officer or public officer when one in fact does not hold such an office.

This offence, located at section 130 of the Criminal Code, was a straight summary conviction offence until recently. Summary conviction offences carry a maximum of six months in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000 or both. Our government hybridized these offences in former Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (identity theft and related misconduct).

Bill S-4 made a number of important changes to the Criminal Code. In particular it enacted a new offence called identity theft, which prohibits the obtaining or processing of another person's identity information with the intent to use that information in the commission of another criminal offence. It also changed the name of the existing offence of personation to identity fraud. Personation is an offence for pretending to be another person with the intent to gain advantage or cause a disadvantage.

Identity theft is usually followed by identity fraud. First one obtains another person's identity information. This is identity theft. Then it can be manipulated into false documents or combined with other information to create a false identity, and finally, the information is used to deceive someone about the identity of the person in front of them.

Identity crime is flourishing, as we all know, and these criminal law amendments are a crucial element in the struggle to keep Canadians' identities and their property safe.

In addition to these important amendments, Bill S-4 also hybridized the offence of personating a peace officer or public officer. As of January 8 of this year, personating a peace officer is no longer a straight summary conviction offence. It is now a hybrid offence. When prosecuted on indictment, this offence is now punishable by up to five years in prison.

It is interesting to note that in many countries like Canada, peace officer personation is still considered a relatively minor offence. In a number of U.S. and Australian states, as well as the United Kingdom, peace officer personation is punishable by a maximum of a few months or a year or two. Only in a few jurisdictions does the maximum penalty rise to five years.

This new sentencing regime for police personation in Canada is therefore above average for similar jurisdictions.

As of the passing of Bill S-4, this offence is no longer treated as a minor offence. It is now a serious offence, which protects the integrity of important government institutions and offices and guards against the many harmful consequences that could flow when a citizen is misled about whether a person has the authority to act in an official capacity.

For instance, a motorist who has just witnessed an accident might report the accident to someone he or she believed was a peace officer but who in fact was not. The good Samaritan might genuinely believe he or she had fulfilled a civic duty by reporting the incident to law enforcement and might believe that the matter would be acted upon and any injured persons would be provided with adequate care. But the impostor likely intends to move on without taking any action to assist those involved in the accident. This kind of situation poorly serves everyone involved. The importance of public trust in the police can never be underestimated.

Fortunately, charges for personating a peace officer are relatively rare in Canada, but I must admit they are increasing in numbers and severity.

But still there are concerns about this kind of crime, as Bill C-576 reminds us. Sometimes people impersonate the police for the simple thrill of feeling powerful or for other relatively minor objectives, such as obtaining information.

But other times, as we have heard here tonight, police personation is closely associated with other offences. In these cases, a criminal will pretend to be a police officer in the hopes that this deception will make it easier to commit other crimes. Most members of the public will acquiesce to the authority of someone they believe to be a police officer. The personation of police in these cases is an attempt to exploit a person's trust and confidence in law enforcement. These kinds of situation are the most troubling and are especially deserving of condemnation by sentencing courts as well as this Parliament.

This is precisely what Bill C-576 does by making it a mandatory aggravating factor on sentencing for the crime of personating a peace officer if the offence was committed for the purpose of facilitating the commission of another offence. Bill C-576 draws attention to this rare but devastating practice.

It is true that sentencing judges already have the discretion to consider any and all aggravating factors that might be applicable in any given case. The codification of aggravating sentencing factors does not really allow the courts to do anything they are not already empowered to do. Each factor that is mentioned in the Criminal Code adds to the complexity and size of it, so this is not a form of legislation we should endorse as a matter of routine practice.

Bill C-576 is worthy of support because it speaks to a horrific kind of criminality, which has so many negative consequences. Using someone's trust in the police as a weapon against them is extremely disturbing to us all.

There are the direct consequences suffered by a victim of such a deception, whether it is the theft of their property, an invasion of their home or a violation of their sexual or bodily integrity. The victim may also suffer a host of indirect harms, such as loss of trust in the police. Society at large suffers a reduction in its ability to trust public institutions if this crime becomes more common.

It is premature to say that this crime is increasing in frequency, but there have been a number of incidents reported in the papers in the last few years. There was a case involving drivers being stopped by a police impersonator and requested to pay immediately for an alleged speeding offence. We heard that just recently. Another case involved motorists who were followed after leaving a casino and then pulled over and robbed of their winnings. There have also been profoundly disturbing cases involving police personation in order to get someone into a car to kidnap them.

The case in the sponsoring member's riding of Red Deer was a devastating case involving the abduction and sexual assault of a teenaged girl. The perpetrator in that case was apprehended, pleaded guilty to a number of offences and is currently serving an 18-year sentence. There are occasionally other stories of sexual assaults that have been facilitated by police personation, and I am aware of several myself.

All Canadians should be concerned about these cases. However, we do not want Canadians to become suspicious of all police officers. This will make the work of law enforcement even more difficult. Nor do we want Canadians to be at an elevated risk of being victimized by blindly trusting the mere assertion of authority. It is a difficult balance to achieve.

The exercise of a little caution is a good thing. An attentive citizen who is approached by someone representing himself or herself as a police officer should look for suspicious behaviour, such as unusual requests by the officer or unusual actions. It is reasonable and acceptable to ask questions of police officers or to ask to see their badge or warrant card specifically and closely verify that the uniform they are wearing bears the name of the locality one is in, rather than just being a generic-looking uniform. People should look for specifics.

This kind of verification process should always be done respectfully and cautiously, but in general, Canadians should not be afraid to seek confirmation that the person who claims to have a certain authority actually does have that authority.

Raising awareness in Canadians of this tremendous and horrific crime of personating a police officer and then using that to commit a crime should be supported by everyone in the House, and I certainly do, as does my friend's Conservative caucus.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 4th, 2010 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to start my speech today regarding Bill C-576. The bill amends the Criminal Code to establish that personating a police officer for the purpose of committing another offence shall be considered by a court to be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes.

When I first read the bill, I thought initially that if it was that important it should be a government-sponsored bill, but the more I think about it, the more I think that the member's taking this on is actually the proper approach to take. We heard the member from the Bloc indicate that he too was suspicious of it in the beginning, but the more he thought about it, the more he recognized that the member has had an excellent idea, something that he can support, so perhaps the member will have success where his entire government is having no success at all on its crime bills that it rains down upon the House on a daily basis. This member's bill may be the one bill that actually gets through the House.

I had indicated in my question that initially I really thought this kind of thing only happened in the cases of John Dillinger and the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, but we have all heard stories about Mexican police. We have heard stories about police in Peru. In other parts of the world on a constant basis people personate police in an effort to take advantage of others, steal money from them and do much harm.

It should not really be a big surprise that it is an increasing activity. As the previous member pointed out, not all of the cases we have uncovered actually involve physical harm to individuals. We have had several cases where people have been pulled over by the fake police, who have attempted to collect speeding fines from the people. Obviously they have been doing this on a continuous basis and using it to raise money.

There was a case in the United States where a young person was pretending to be a probation officer and broke into a police headquarters, stole a bunch of equipment and ended up taking a bunch of youth who were on probation out for a drive in some stolen cars.

Not all of these examples show serious criminal intent, but there is a rising tide of these things. I do not know whether it is encouraged by some of the television programs and movies we see, but nevertheless it is increasing. I have a—

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

October 1st, 2010 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-576, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer).

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to introduce a bill to amend the Criminal Code. My bill would establish that impersonating a police officer for the purpose of committing another offence shall be considered by a court to be an aggravated circumstance for sentencing purposes.

My bill seeks to preserve the trust and respect for authority that we have for peace officers and to increase penalties for those who breach that trust to cause harm.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)