Ottawa judge strikes down mandatory victim surcharges

An Ottawa judge has struck down mandatory victim surcharges as unconstitutional.

In a ruling issued Thursday, Ontario Court Justice David Paciocco said the mandatory surcharges amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

The ruling came during the case of Inuit man Shaun Michael, who was facing $900 in mandatory victim surcharges, for what Paciocco called "nuisance" crimes.

Michael pleaded guilty to stealing a liquor bottle from an LCBO, kicking a loss prevention officer and police officer, breaking a shelter window, getting into a fight with a snow plow operator, and lashing out at another police officer who confronted him while he was drunk and walking in the middle of a busy street.

Each of his charges came with a surcharge of $100 to $200.

Paciocco's ruling said that removing a judge's ability to waive the surcharges in cases where the defendant lives below the poverty line meant Michael was being treated more harshly than a wealthy person would be, because of his poverty.

The federal government had made victim surcharges mandatory in October 2013. The money is intended to pay for victim's relief services.

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