Supreme Court issues decision on forfeiture application

Today the Supreme Court of Canada overturned the decision of the Quebec Court of Appeal in R. v. Manning.  The Supreme Court held that on the specific facts of that case, the Court of Appeal gave too much weight to the offender’s personal circumstances, and insufficient weight to his criminal record, which included several breaches of probation orders or undertakings in addition to five convictions for alcohol-related driving offences.

The CCLA intervened in the appeal before the Supreme Court to oppose the position taken by the Crown that the courts cannot consider the effect of a requested forfeiture order on the offender and his or her family, or the likelihood that the property in issue will be used for lawful purposes.  The Crown had argued that the court can only consider three factors: the nature and gravity of the offence, the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence and the criminal record, if any, of the person charged with or convicted of the offence.  The CCLA argued that a proper reading of the Criminal Code requires an assessment of the personal circumstances of the offender and affected others. Such a reading is, in the CCLA’s view, consistent with both the language of the provision and the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms.

Although the Supreme Court ultimately granted a forfeiture order, it appears to have accepted the CCLA’s argument on the proper interpretation of the law, as the Supreme Court held that the Quebec Court of Appeal erred by overemphasizing the offender’s personal circumstances and failing to give appropriate weight to his record, rather than holding that it was an error to have considered the offender’s personal circumstances at all.

The CCLA continues to be of the view that consideration of the personal circumstances of the offender and his or her family is required by both the language of the Criminal Code relating to forfeiture orders and the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms.  The CCLA intends to continue to follow this issue as the law develops.

A more detailed summary of the decision and a discussion of the implications for the rights of Canadians will follow. For media inquiries, please contact the CCLA’s counsel on the appeal, Catherine Beagan Flood or Joshua Krane of Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP at cbe@blakes.com (416-863-2269) or joshua.krane@blakes.com (416-863-4187).

To read the Supreme Court of Canada decision: click here

To read CCLA’s factum: click here