Duffy’s charges carry significant potential prison sentence

·Crime Contributor
Suspended Senator Mike Duffy arrives at the Ontario Court of Justice, in Ottawa, Canada, April 7, 2015. Duffy, a former ally of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, goes on trial for fraud and bribery on Tuesday in a case that could damage the governing Conservatives' chances of winning October's general election. REUTERS/Blair Gable

Suspended Senator Mike Duffy faces a maximum of 212 years in potential prison sentences in addition to possible fines if convicted on all 31 charges.

However, as sentences are not strung out back-to-back in Canada, incarceration usually doesn’t exceed the maximum of the most severe charges, which in Duffy’s case could be as much as 14 years for bribery or 14 years for fraud against government.

The government moved in 2011 to allow consecutive sentences in Canada – but only in multiple murder cases.

As for Duffy, a conviction on even one of the 31 charges could potentially send him to federal prison with a two-year sentence. Sentences under two years are served in provincial jails. However, none of the allegations have been proven in court.

Yahoo Canada News has broken down the charges and potential sentences in sections – as the charges were laid out by the RCMP last July. RCMP divided the charges into four sections:

  • expenses related to his residence

  • expenses unrelated to Senate work

  • consulting contracts

  • bribery of a public official.

Expense claims in relation to his residency – Duffy has been charged with one count each of fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust. The total amount of the fraud in this instance is $90,000.

One count of fraud over $5,000 carries a maximum penalty of 10 years related to his residence expenses. For breach of trust involving his residence, the penalty is a maximum of five years on that count. (15 years total with a maximum 10-year potential sentence in the residency related charges)

Expense claims unrelated to Senate business – Duffy has been charged with:

  • five counts of fraud under $5,000

  • four counts of fraud over $5,000

  • nine counts of breach of trust.

The total amount of the frauds exceeds $50,000.

For these charges, Duffy could be sentenced to a maximum of two years for each of the five counts of fraud under $5,000, 10 years for each of the counts of fraud over $5,000 and five years for each of the nine counts of breach of trust. (95 years’ worth of consecutive sentences)

Awarding of consulting contracts – Duffy has been charged with:

  • two counts of fraud over $5,000

  • two counts of fraud under $5,000

  • four counts of breach of trust

The total amount of the frauds exceeds $60,000.

For these charges, a conviction could carry a maximum of 10 years for each of the two counts of fraud over $5,000, two years for each of the two counts of fraud under $5,000 and five years for each of the nine counts of breach of trust. (69 years in sentences)

Directly or indirectly corruptly accept, obtain, agree to accept, or attempt to obtain, for himself, money ($90,000 from Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright) – Duffy has been charged with one count each of bribery of a judicial officer, frauds on the Government and breach of trust.

The bribery count has a 14-year maximum sentence, fraud on government also carries a 14-year maximum and the breach of trust carries a five-year maximum. (33 years total)

Corruption charges

Of all the charges, perhaps the most difficult to prosecute is Section 119 of the Criminal Code, which makes it an offence for a Member of Parliament to corruptly accept money “in respect of anything done or omitted or to be done” in their official capacity.

Such cases are rare and the outcome of Duffy’s bribery charge could depend on how the courts interpret the wording, Don Stuart, a law professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. told The Canadian Press when the charges were filed.

“It seems unclear what the courts have made of the word corruption. Normally speaking you don’t have to prove a motive, but in this case you might have to, because of the use of the word corruption,” he said.

“They will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his intention was a corrupt intention.”

The CP story also said lofty level of proof is due to the gravity of the offence — underscored by the stiff maximum penalty, according to law professor Carissima Mathen of the University of Ottawa.

The word “corruptly” suggests an act done for a particular purpose, she said. “It’s blameworthy, it’s especially wrong what you’ve done.”

Fraud against governments

Another charge that could result in a strong penalty, if convicted, is the charge of committing a fraud against governments and is outlined in the Financial Administration Act and also in the Criminal Code.

“The offence is punishable by a maximum of five years imprisonment and a fine of $5,000 for a fraud of $5,000 or less, or by 14 years imprisonment and a fine equal to the amount of the fraud for a fraud of more than $5,000,” the Public Prosecution Service of Canada stated in a backgrounder published in January.

Fraud is an indictable offence punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding fourteen years if the value of the fraud exceeds $5000. However a minimum sentence of two years of imprisonment was adopted in 2011 for frauds exceeding one million dollars, the statement said.

The bulk of the charges against Duffy relate to fraud - which under Section 380 of the Criminal Code can carry maximum penalties of two years to 10 years – depending on the whether each count is less than or greater than 5,000 dollars.

The charges were laid last summer after investigators probed four years’ and $200,000 worth of expense claims, bank statements, phone records and thousands of emails.

Breakdown of the 31 charges:

Residency expense claims

  • one count of fraud over $5,000

  • one count of breach of trust

Expense claims unrelated to Senate business

  • five counts of fraud under $5,000

  • four counts of fraud over $5,000

  • nine counts of breach of trust

Awarding of consulting contracts

  • two counts of fraud over $5,000

  • two counts of fraud under $5,000

  • four counts of breach of trust

Accepting $90,000 from Nigel Wright

  • one count of bribery of a judicial officer

  • one count of fraud on the government

  • one count of breach of trust

Follow Glenn on Twitter: @Glenn_A_Johnson

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