What is SOIRA?
SOIRA is the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, a federal law which allows judges to order that convicted sex offenders register with the government. The SOIRA was passed in 2004 to help police better investigate sex crimes by creating a database of those who are likely to reoffend. SOIRA created the National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR), a RCMP database which contains the information collected by SOIRA orders. The SOIRA amends the Criminal Code and creates new provisions outlining SOIRA orders and the conditions under which they are granted. Should a judge grant a SOIRA order, it can be for 10 years, 20 years, or for life. Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada has decided that the mandatory registration/designation automatic lifetime SOIRA orders for those convicted of multiple offences are unconstitutional.
Is the SOIRA registry public?
No, unlike American sex offender registries, the NSOR is not public and is only available to members of law enforcement. Even in the event that you apply for a police record check in Ontario, the record check will mention your convictions and discharges (in certain cases), but not whether you are on the sex offender registry.
What are the consequences of being placed on SOIRA?
If a SOIRA order is placed against you, there are requirements that you must follow. After release from jail or prison or, if not in jail, after being convicted, you must provide the following information to the police within seven days at a designated registration centre:
- Your name
- Your birthdate
- Your address
- Your passport number
- Photographs of yourself including those of identifying marks (tattoos, piercings etc.)
- Information about your vehicle (license plate number, make, model)
- The location of your workplace or school
After your initial report, you must report to a reporting center every year to review and update your information. However, should key information such as your name, address, place of employment, or passport change, you are required to re-register within seven days of that change. Failing to comply with SOIRA’s registration requirements can lead to a fine of $10,000 and two years imprisonment.
How do I get off SOIRA?
To get off the NSOR and to no longer be subject to SOIRA’s reporting requirements, you must apply for a termination order. An application for a termination order is made to a Superior Court, and the court must determine that the order is grossly disproportionate. In other words, they must find that there is very little or no impact to the public interest of the sex offender not being registered. When making this decision, judges consider a variety of factors such as the nature of the offence, the criminal history of the offender, post sentence conduct, and other factors that give context to the crime in question and the registrant’s likelihood of re-offending.
Eligibility to apply for a termination order depends on the length of the length of the initial SOIRA order. For 10 year orders, registrants can apply for a termination order after 5 years. For 20 year orders, registrants can apply after 10 years, and for lifetime SOIRA orders, registrants can apply for termination orders after 20 years.
To avoid a SOIRA order in the first place, your lawyer can argue that the public interest isn’t advanced by your registration. To do so, your lawyer can show a number of factors such as:
- Your overall clean criminal record
- The nature of the offence
- Attempts at rehabilitation and moving on from the crime
What criminal offences apply to SOIRA?
A judge may grant a SOIRA order for all sexual offences including (but not limited to):
- Sexual interference (section 151)
- Invitation to sexual touching (section 152)
- Sexual exploitation (section 153)
- Sexual exploitation of a person with a disability (section 153.1)
- Incest (section 155)
- Bestiality (section 160)
- Child pornography (section 163.1)
- Sexual assault (section 271)
Does SOIRA apply to a discharge?
Various courts have determined that an order under SOIRA is not available to offenders who receive an absolute or conditional discharge. Section 730 of the Criminal Code states that when an offender is discharged of an offence, they “shall be deemed to not have been convicted of the offence”. Therefore, a discharge is when the Court makes a finding of guilt but chooses not to register that as a conviction.
SOIRA orders apply to those who have been convicted of (or determined not criminally responsible for) a designated offence. Before the most recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling on SOIRA (R v Ndhlovu) which struck down section 490.012 of the Criminal Code, SOIRA orders applied mandatorily to all those who were sentenced for designated offences. Ontario case law agrees that a discharge (whether absolute or conditional) does not count as a “sentence” and thus, does not trigger a SOIRA order.
What is Christopher’s law and how does it relate to SOIRA
Christopher’s Law is Ontario’s sex offender registry. It was created before the federal government established the national registry. Like the SOIRA, Christopher’s Law creates a provincial database for law enforcement that has the whereabouts of those convicted of sex offences. Registration under Christopher’s Law can be either for a 10 year or lifetime term and has similar provisions of yearly reporting.
How can we help?
At Lakin Afolabi law, we have over a decade of experience in defending sexual offence charges. Being the majority of our caseload, we are experts at defending sexual offences. If you’re concerned about being convicted of a sexual offence and the consequence that a conviction brings, including registration with SOIRA, talk to us today.