Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to finish off what I had started because this is such an excellent bill. I think it deserves the due attention that it is going to receive.
Where I had left off was in relation to the six measures that this particular bill contains, and I had outlined at least three of them. The first was in relation to minimum mandatory sentences; the second being the additional aggravating factors that would be added to section 380.(1) of the Criminal Code; and the third being that the judge or justice state on the record those aggravating or other factors that determined his or her sentencing in relation to the alleged accused as a result of being convicted.
The fourth is a new sentencing tool. I really think this is a good factor in relation to this particular bill because it would give the courts a brand new sentencing tool for fraud offenders, aimed at preventing the commission of further frauds and victimizations. Indeed, often these particular individuals who commit these types of crimes will continue to do so because this is the only mode in which they earn a living.
The court, in this case, would be able to order as part of the sentence that the offender actually be prohibited from having work for remuneration or in a volunteer capacity, often these types of cases involve some sort of volunteer non-profit organization, and that involves having any authority whatsoever over another person's money, over another person's valuable securities, or over any real property that a person would have.
The order is discretionary and available for any period of time. What I like the best is that it can actually be ordered for life and in some circumstances, it certainly should be, especially where we see that particular person continuing to behave in that same manner and continuing to travel around the country.
I, myself, had a case in which this actually took place. That person defrauded a curling club in one location in the province and then moved some 400 or 500 miles to a new location and then defrauded a particular service organization of upwards of $50,000, in that particular case. It could have been prevented if this type of order would have been in place. In fact, the gentleman's credentials were such that, in the first case, he received a two years less a day conditional sentence, which means it was provincial time and he, in this case, would not have to serve that time in jail. He actually served that time at his house and as a result of that, he moved, went to a different location, got a job as a manager of a restaurant, and then defrauded that person of up to $50,000.
So, this is a really good addition to the Criminal Code and I think it will be used by justices and judges according to need.
The two final measures are actually aimed at improving the responsiveness of the justice system and the sentencing process to the needs of victims.
As members know, we in this Conservative government stand up for the rights of victims and we ensure that Canadians and Canadian families continue to enjoy the freedoms they have and, at the same time, do not have to succumb to criminals and criminal activity.
Data from 2006-07 showed that approximately 20% of fraud convictions resulted in a restitution order. I was somewhat shocked at that. However, in order to encourage greater use of these orders, first, sentencing courts would be required to ask the crown prosecutor in the case whether reasonable efforts were made to give victims a chance to indicate whether they want restitution. I cannot imagine many cases where a victim that has been defrauded would not want restitution. That is usually not the case. As a result of that, courts would also be required to consider restitution in all fraud cases and to provide reasons if restitution is not ordered. That would set this as a new precedent, another proof that we in this Conservative government will stand up for victims of crime.
I just want to digress for a moment and speak about a particular part of my practice that I found very refreshing from the federal government. It was approximately 11 to 12 years ago. It was in relation to child support guidelines.
As a practitioner in northern Alberta, I would see cases, especially because we had justices from all over the province of Alberta come up to Fort McMurray at that time, with the same circumstances where court orders would be double the amount for children or even half the amount for children in other cases. So, the child support guidelines giving clear indications to judges and justices across the country as far as what people made, as far as income and what they should pay in child support is very similar to this.
I think we will find this to be a very welcome approach, not just for crown prosecutors but also for justices so they know the starting point, the absolute minimum and what those aggravating factors should be once case law is established, and what people should receive based upon what kind of offence they committed.
Three points of caution are needed. First, no criminal law reform can change the bottom line, namely, that if the offender does not have any adequate assets there cannot be restitution. Indeed, it cannot help. Our hearts go out to that, which is why we are looking at other regulations and doing consultations across the country to stop this before it actually happens, and to put in place regulations so that fraud of this nature cannot continue to happen.
It should also be kept in mind that the crown prosecutor is responsible for making the sentencing submissions and victims will not have standing to advance their restitution requests. They need to work with the crown prosecutor and ensure they fully disclose how much this has hurt them and their family through a victim impact statement. They also need to disclose how much was taken by providing proper accounting records in order to prove the case and then the crown prosecutor can put that forward to the justice.
The last measure in the bill would specifically acknowledge that courts may consider a statement prepared by a representative of a community or definable group for consideration at sentencing for fraud cases. This is new but this is a great application to allow all those victims who have been taken advantage of by a particular criminal or criminal organization to put forward exactly what this has done.
In most cases, as I have mentioned, the victims are primarily seniors and retirees, but curling clubs, not for profit groups, hockey clubs, figure skating clubs and even arts clubs have also been victims. It seems that criminals will stop at nothing to take money and to personally enhance their own lives. Especially bad is defrauding church groups, flying clubs and, therefore, taxpayers and the government because, ultimately, we, the people of Canada, the taxpayers, must pay that. When they defraud the Government of Canada, it is we, the taxpayers of Canada, who ultimately pay because they are actually stealing from us.
This is an excellent bill but I would like to go over some of the case law. There have been some suggestions by the Liberals and even the Bloc that this is not the case, indeed when is there a two year or less sentence for these people who steal that kind of money. As a result, some investigation was done and a review of case law does suggest that the average sentence for large frauds is around four years, although some people do receive much longer sentences and some shorter. When people receive lesser sentences, it usually is in a case where there is a joint submission by a crown prosecutor and a defence lawyer. They come together and negotiate a plea based upon a certain amount of time being spent in jail and then present that to a judge based on usually good evidence. Sometimes they negotiate it for other reasons, primarily as a result of getting an early guilty plea so victims do not have to deal with it. Now we have a two year minimum and it needs to be over that.
I would like to talk a bit about some cases that have come forward. In one particular case, the Queen v. Cioffi in 2009, where the accused was convicted of fraud, more than $4 million were taken and the scheme lasted four years. It was quite a complicated scheme. It required some form of planning and a large number of fraudulent transactions. However, in this particular case, the accused had no criminal record and did not personally benefit. Someone else benefited. The individual who stole this money received two years less a day, which means provincial time. It is not even under federal jurisdiction. Two years less a day means that the individual is eligible for house arrest, which, quite frankly, I do not think should be allowed in these particular circumstances. Now people will not be allowed because this government has that two year plus mandatory timeframe.
In another case, R. v. McCarthy, a 2008 case, two loans were involved totalling in excess of $3 million, aggravating factors included, obviously the breach of trust, a considerable number of victims and there was no criminal record in this case either. The individual in that case received a conditional sentence of two years less a day as well, followed by a year of probation. So, $3 million and two years less a day in jail.
In the 2008 case of R. v. Wilson out of Nova Scotia, $1.8 million were defrauded in a one month period and, unbelievably, the $1.8 million fraud resulted in 26 months in jail.
In the case of R. v. Lafleur, it was 28 counts of fraud spanning four years and totalling over $1.5 million. The individual received 42 months of jail time and a restitution order. In this particular case, there was a guilty plea and other mitigating factors were taken into account, such as age and the lack of a criminal record.
In the 2006 case of R. v. Coffin, the individual received 18 months in jail for 15 counts of fraud totalling $1.5 million. Eighteen months does not seem like much time, especially given some of the circumstances and facts that I will be mentioning at the end of my speech today.
In the case of R. v. Nottingham, the individual received a conditional sentence of two years less a day to be served in the community. The individual was allowed to stay at home for the entire length of the sentence and do normal activities for the most part. Aside from some semblance of house arrest, the person still had the big screen TV and all the rest of the amenities. More than $1.1 million in that particular case was defrauded.
The last case I will refer to is R. v. Toman. This was another case of two years less a day for defrauding $2.5 million over a six month period. That might sound like lot of time to some Canadians, but I want those Canadians to recognize that two years in jail does not mean two years in jail.
Two years in jail usually means maybe 15 months in jail, at the top, or two-thirds of the time. However, more often than not, the person will do half time as a result of credit or whatever else, which means 12 months in jail. As we heard earlier from some of our colleagues across the way, some people often only spend one-sixth or one-third of their time in jail, even up to less than eight months.
It seems like a fairly good rate of return when one can steal a couple million dollars and do six months behind bars. This government is about to change that particular circumstance. We have made many changes in relation to protecting victims, but those were some of the cases that I think Canadians were not aware of.
Quite frankly, two years is not enough for those people who are prepared to steal from seniors and non-profit groups. They should do more time and this government will ensure that if people do the crime, they will do the time.