March 10, 1954 (22nd Parliament, 1st Session)


George Clyde Nowlan

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nowlan:

I should like to ask the minister if he would comment briefly. I note that clause 571 is new, and I think it is a good thing to have it in here. To me this new clause represents an advance. Heretofore, when an indictment has gone to a jury, and when a second indictment has set forth in detail that an accused was being charged with a second offence, such accused was obviously prejudiced.
We now come to clause 572 (1). Frankly I do not like this one. Possibly the minister can explain it. We see that it refers to sections 851 and 963, and I do not think it helps at all. The explanatory note goes on to say that section 572 is new, in part. Section 572 (1) says, in effect, that where an accused is convicted of an offence for which a greater punishment may be imposed by reason of previous convictions-that is, when he is convicted of a second offence and has a previous conviction-no greater punishment shall be imposed upon him by reason thereof unless the prosecutor satisfies the court that the accused, before making his plea, was notified that a greater punishment would be sought by reason thereof.
As I read the clause it would seem to open up a dangerous situation. An accused person may have a perfectly good defence to a crime with which he is about to be charged. This accused person has committed a previous offence. If he pleads guilty the crown prosecutor, or the prosecuting officer, can say that he will treat it as a first offence. But then he may say, "If you plead not guilty, we are going to treat it as a second offence."

I think a situation is being created here where, with all due respect for the many competent prosecution officers throughout the country, accused persons are going to be laid open to blackmail. For the life of me I do not know why we should have this clause in there. What good does it do a man, before he is convicted, to be told, "If you are convicted you will get more than you would-get if you plead guilty."
As I read the section this is an invitation to police officers to hold a club over a man's head and to say, "Plead guilty, or else. And here is a law which says so. Here is a law which says that the judge can convict you of a second offence, and you will get a lot more. I am warning you that if you plead not guilty to this you are going to get the works." Without the knowledge of the minister, or without the knowledge of a responsible prosecuting officer, I can see that sort of thing happening. I am sure the minister will know instinctively that it will happen.
I am wondering just what value the clause might have. The minister may say that the commissioners recommended it, or there may have been a recommendation from somewhere else. I have not gone into the history of it. But when I read it, it does seem to me to give too great opportunity for blackmail, and I suggest the minister should consider it carefully.

Topic:   '2862 HOUSE OF COMMONS
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