The Crown is seeking 9-12 months of custody for Dean Del Mastro after he was convicted of 4 charges related to over-spending on his election campaign according to Diana Mehta of the Canadian Press.
The Crown told the Court:
Not claiming polling, voter ID and get-out-the-vote calling allowed Mr. Del Mastro to do more advertising. And in allowing him to do that, it allowed him to control more of the discourse during the election..
Cheating the Canadian public’s right to a fair election by skirting the democratic rules is a serious offence. The primary considerations for the Court in this sentencing must be deterrence and denunciation, which classically means a period of incarceration. Del Mastro’s lawyer can argue that he is not a threat to the public, and that he should therefore receive some kind of community disposition, but spending one’s sentence in the community generally doesn’t carry the same deterring effect.
Del Mastro has maintained his innocence since the beginning, which for many Courts is a sign that the offender has limited or no remorse. He also will not get credit for pleading guilty and accepting responsibility for the offences.
As many Crown Prosecutors have said in court before, this case calls out for general deterrence. The Court could, and some would say should, send a message to the Canadian public, through Dean Del Mastro, telling everyone that if you cheat in an election, you go to jail.
Dean Del Mastro came from the political party that bases it’s justice platform on the classic crime and punishment model, and has tended to look to increase jail sentences for offences, including introducing mandatory minimums for a number of offences, adding deterrence to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and limiting credit for pre-sentence custody in many cases. At this point, I wonder if Del Mastro is asking his lawyer to do their best to keep him out of jail, or if he is telling his lawyer that those who commit crimes should do hard time, just as the party he once belonged to does?
Part of the issue defence lawyers have with a tough-on-crime approach is that every case and every offender are different. A sentence for an offence that is fair in one circumstance, may not be fair in another. A sentence that may have the desired effect on one offender, may not have the same effect on another. Sentences must be tailored to the specific offender, and must take into account the specific circumstances of the case.
In this case, is it fair to send Del Mastro to jail for 12 months? Will it deter him from cheating on another election, or has the process already taught him a lesson? How much retribution should Canadian’s get, since we are the victims of this crime? Some would say that he should not go to jail, and others will say that we should lock him up and throw away the key, which illustrates the difficulty with a one-sentence-fits-all system.
Another question we may want to ask is whether Del Mastro should still get his MP pension? Click here to read an article about that.