Jail term stands for Irish student who defrauded Ontario Works on probation
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, March 20, 2019 2:41PM EDT
TORONTO -- An Irish university student jailed for three months for defrauding social services while on probation for another fraud has lost her bid for a lighter sentence that might have allowed her to remain in Canada.
In dismissing her sentence appeal, Ontario's top court said the immigration consequences for Patricia Moran did not outweigh the need for a sentence fit for the crime.
"Immigration consequences of a sentence for a particular offender are a relevant factor for a sentencing judge to consider," the Appeal Court said. "But they provide no warrant for the imposition of a sentence which is not true to the governing objectives and principles of sentencing."
Moran, 39, was convicted in June 2017 of one count of fraud under $5,000 related to collecting benefits from the District of Muskoka.
Evidence was that the full-time university student -- in Canada on a study visa -- received more than $6,000 from Ontario Works over a period of eight months. Documents show Moran failed to disclose income from her hospitality job or that she had money in the bank as she was supposed to do.
The prosecution wanted her jailed for five to eight months, while her lawyer argued for a conditional discharge despite conceding that such an outcome was unlikely. The key problem was that Moran was already on probation as part of a conditional discharge for theft and possession of property obtained by crime when she took Ontario Works cash to which she was not entitled.
As a result, the judge sentenced her in October 2017 to three months in jail and ordered her to pay restitution to the district.
Given her conviction for an indictable offence, Moran automatically became inadmissible to Canada on grounds of criminality. Immigration officials issued a deportation order against her October 2017 as a result of her conviction.
On appeal, Moran again argued for a conditional discharge in light of the immigration consequences. The judge, she maintained, didn't give enough weight to her precarious status in Canada. The prosecution argued against any reduction, saying the punishment she had received was already at the low end.
In siding with the prosecution, the Appeal Court said it found no legal reason to interfere with the judge's sentence.
"In cases such as this involving fraud in connection with funds earmarked for social assistance for the disadvantaged, the predominant sentencing objectives are denunciation and deterrence," the Appeal court said. "It is all the more so where the offender is a recidivist who, within months of findings of guilt for cognate offences, reoffends while bound by the terms of a probation order."
The judge rightfully rejected a conditional discharge on the grounds that it would have been counter to the public interest, the higher court said. As such, the three-month jail term was well within the appropriate range, even if it was at the "very low end," and was in no way demonstrably out of whack, the appellate court said.
"Her conduct was knowing and deliberate," the Appeal Court said. "The sentence imposed was fit."