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MANDEL: Court criticizes Toronto JP for waiving victim fine surcharges

The Robin Hood of Toronto East court has had his knuckles rapped — and so Justice of the Peace Patrick Marum won’t be waiving the victim fine surcharge anymore.

To the city’s dismay, Marum had been refusing all year to add the extra 20% to 25% victim surcharge on top of fines imposed on those convicted in his municipally-run courtroom on Markham Rd.

His docket is filled with people charged under the provincial offences act for infractions such as speeding or driving without insurance.

Upon conviction, a $100 fine for example would become $120 — the extra $20 earmarked to a special fund to help victims of crime.

But Marum, a former Toronto cop and separate school board trustee, insists the surcharge should have been scrapped for provincial offences after it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada last December in its Boudreault decision.

Canada’s highest court found the mandatory extra fine was ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ that disproportionately penalizes the poor.

“Their inability to pay part of their debt to society may further contribute to their stigmatization,” Justice Sheilah Martin wrote on behalf of the majority.

Marum has witnessed that first hand.

“What’s so unfair about it is that you get these young kids usually from poor families and let’s say the fine is $1,000 and you put 25% on that, that’s a life sentence for those kids,” explains the JP with his Irish lilt.

The 74-year-old has always been a bit of a rebel: he was once leader of a Scarborough tax revolt group that refused to pay their property taxes until the municipality adopted a fairer method of assessment.

In 2015, he challenged Toronto’s bylaw that required people to pay the fixed fine amount on parking tickets.

And in January, the maverick JP stopped imposing the victims’ surcharge on his fines.

When flustered prosecutors tried to argue that the Supreme Court decision applies to the victim fine surcharge in the Criminal Code and not the one under the Provincial Offences Act (POA), Marum refused to budge.

“The sooner that it goes before a higher court and they make a decision, whether it includes or excludes POA, then we’ll be fine,” he told the prosecutor according to a court transcript.

“And in the meantime, we’ve come up with the question of whether these good people should keep … their hard-earned cash in their pocket until the decision comes down and I believe that they should keep their money in their pocket until he final decision comes down.

“And it does need a decision for clarification because the area is foggy. The administration sees it one way, I see it another way and, and that’s my decision.”

So the city appealed.

In a decision released last week, Ontario Court Justice Leslie Chapin found Marum was wrong on two counts: he hadn’t given reasons for waiving the surcharge and failed to go through the proper process of challenging its constitutionality.

The JP, the judge said, should have served notice on the Attorneys General of Ontario and Canada and not arbitrarily decided on his own without a hearing.

That’s good news for Toronto coffers, but a spokesman wouldn’t comment on the ruling.

“The City is unable to respond to inquiries about a specific court decision or speculate on any future decisions,” said Natasha Hinds Fitzsimmins.

Marum was disappointed in not getting a definitive answer as to whether the surcharge still applies in his court.

“It doesn’t seem to address the core issue: Is the Boudreault ruling applicable across the country for everything or does it make exception for the provincial offences act in Toronto?”

All he knows for sure is that it will be someone else’s fight now.

With only four more months until his retirement, the JP will be playing by the rules, no matter how unfair he believes them to be.

mmandel@postmedia.com

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