Supreme Court rules drug trafficker need not pay additional fine

scoc

The Supreme Court of Canada says a convicted drug trafficker should not have to pay a fine as part of his punishment to offset the fact he used money he obtained from his crimes to pay his legal fees.

The split decision comes today in the case of Yulik Rafilovich, a Toronto man who pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking and possession of property obtained through crime.

Rafilovich could not afford legal fees and did not qualify for legal aid, so he successfully applied under a Criminal Code provision for permission to use the seized funds to pay his lawyers.

After he pleaded guilty, the Crown sought an order for him to pay a fine of almost $42,000, equal to the amount he was able to obtain through the court order to pay for his defence.

Six Supreme Court judges ruled that in general sentencing judges should not impose a fine instead of forfeiture in relation to funds that had been returned to an accused under a court order.

Three dissenting judges said accused people should not be allowed to benefit from their crimes, but the use of seized assets to pay for a defence lawyer can be allowed if it is essential to safeguard the constitutional right to a fair trial.