The highest court in B.C. has refused to reduce a jail sentence for a Filipino man convicted of identity theft.
Trimming the sentence would have made it possible for the man to appeal a government order for him to be deported from Canada.
In June 2011, Domingo Mariones Gonzales, 48, was sentenced in Vancouver provincial court to eight months in jail after pleading guilty to possessing 12 documents, according to a report by Post Media.
These documents included credit cards, driver’s licenses and bank debit cards, in the names of other people, stated the news report.
At the time of the offences, the father of four was on bail on charges of committing two similar crimes, attempting to cash stolen cheques, according to the Post Media report.
Gonzales came to Canada in 1980 and has permanent residency status but remains a citizen of the Philippines, Post Media reported.
Gonzales launched his sentence appeal after the Conservative government changed the law in 2013 so that a criminal receiving a prison term of greater than six months could not appeal deportation, the media company reported.
Post Media reported that in May 2015, Gonzales was found inadmissible to Canada because he had received a sentence of more than six months.
After being denied an appeal of a removal order, he applied to the Legal Services Society for funding to appeal his jail sentence, according to Post Media. This was to stave off deportation from Canada.
The news reported noted that the man’s lawyer argued the eight-month sentence was unfit because the sentencing judge was unaware of the “collateral” immigration consequences — the changes to the law were made two years after sentencing, according to the Post Media report.
In a ruling released on November 7, 2016, a three-judge panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, Post Media reported.
In her reasons cited by the report, Justice Daphne Smith found that while the immigration consequences were significant to Gonzales, his lengthy criminal record meant that the eight-month sentence was not unfit, according to the Post Media report.
At the time of the sentencing, according to the news report, Gonzales had 20 convictions, including nine property-related offences, one for possession of a narcotic, two for uttering threats, one for assault, one for attempted fraud and three for fraud, the news report stated.
Smith said in the report that the judge in Gonzales’s case was in “general terms” aware of potential immigration consequences.
“In my view, Mr. Gonzales’s sentence of eight months for identity theft, targeting 12 individuals, given the extent of and number of prior-related offences in his criminal record, was a fit sentence,” said the judge.
“While this court has intervened in a great number of cases to effect a modest reduction in penalty to take account of unknown and unanticipated immigration consequences, deciding when to do so is very much a case-specific exercise.”
Post Media reported that Justice Gail Dickson and Justice Gregory Fitch agreed with Smith and the sentence appeal was dismissed.