Published On: Jun 19,2017
The accused/appellant was at the relevant times a police officer with the Niagara Regional Police. He was convicted of conspiracy to smuggle cheese into Canada from the United States without paying the required duties, and related charges (in contravention of the Customs Act), and of breach of trust by a public official (in contravention of the Criminal Code). The scheme expanded and involved selling the cheese to local restaurants; it spanned three years. The constable never declared the cheese at the border, nor did he or the accused ever pay the required duty, which would have amounted to approximately $325,000
He was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for the smuggling offences and to one month’s imprisonment, consecutive, on the breach of trust offence. InRegina v. Heron, 2017 ONCA 441, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the accused’s conviction for conspiring to smuggle cheese into Canada from the United States (in contravention of the Customs Act) and of breach of trust by a public official (in contravention of the Criminal Code ). The accused’s scheme expanded, over the course of three (3) years; and involved selling the cheese to local restaurants in the Buffalo (USA) area. The police officer in Niaragara never declared the cheese at the border, and did he or the accused did not ever pay the required duty, which would have amounted to approximately $325,000. After his friend advised that the police officer that thought he was being followed, the accused ran a CPIC check on the licence plate of the vehicle operated by his friend. The Court upheld the sentencing judge’s comments in this regard at para. 27: “I also agree that the appellant’s resort to CPIC with a view to protecting his criminal interests, as best he could, constituted a serious breach of public trust in the circumstances.”
The trial judge recognized that the appellant was a first-time offender. However, the appellant is also a police officer holding a public office. The public is entitled to expect honesty and not corruption in the members of its police forces. In this case, as the trial judge noted, the crime was significantly aggravated by the fact that the appellant conspired with Cst. Purdie to have Cst. Purdie use his credentials as a police officer to move across the border without scrutiny in order to facilitate the scheme. I agree with the trial judge that:
It sends a very discouraging message to the public to let them know that police officers can get away with profiting from abuse of their credentials.
This case clearly illustrates the extent in which state power can be abused for self-motivated purposes; and of equal importance to ensure that you or any commercial entity is aware of the applicable laws when engaging in transnational business activities that can attract criminal liability; and potential jail terms. In this case, the Court of the Appeal upheld the decision of the sentencing judge given the breach of the public trust.
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