A Vancouver man convicted in a precedent-setting human trafficking case involving a Filipina nanny should serve five or six years in jail to deter others from committing similar offences, a Crown prosecutor has told a B.C. Supreme Court judge.
At the Wednesday sentencing hearing for Franco Orr, prosecutor Peter La Prairie told Justice Richard Goepel that Mr. Orr forced former nanny Leticia Sarmiento to work in humiliating and degrading circumstances that were equivalent to modern day slavery.
But Nicholas Preovolos, Mr. Orr's lawyer, said Ms. Sarmiento was treated well and that much of her testimony was problematic. He called for a conditional sentence, noting that while his client "may have over-promised" by allowing Ms. Sarmiento to stay in Canada and work, he is a 50-year-old family man with no past criminal record.
"Mr. Orr is not somebody who needs to be separated from society," Mr. Preovolos said.
Justice Goepel reserved judgment Wednesday.
Mr. Orr's June conviction was hailed by authorities and domestic worker groups as precedent-setting. While there have been about 50 human trafficking convictions under the Criminal Code of Canada, Mr. Orr was the first to be convicted of human trafficking under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
He was also found guilty of employing a foreign national illegally and misrepresenting facts that could induce an error, the latter of which relates to obtaining the wrong type of visa for Ms. Sarmiento. Nicole Huen, his wife and co-accused, was acquitted on charges of human trafficking and employing a foreign national illegally.
Ms. Sarmiento had worked for the couple in Hong Kong for about one year without problems. She claims she was tricked into coming to Canada with the couple in September, 2008, after which she was forced to work 16 hours a day, every day, doing all the housework and caring for the couple's three young children for nearly two years. Mr. Orr kept her passport and she was not allowed to leave the premises alone or call home to the Philippines, she said.
Mr. La Prairie painted Mr. Orr and his wife as a malicious couple that took advantage of a vulnerable woman, by means of deception and fraud, for personal benefit. He referenced comparable cases in the United States, Australia and the U.K. to show Justice Richard Goepel those resulted in sentences ranging from four to 11 years in prison.
The defence has maintained Ms. Sarmiento was treated like family, producing photos of birthday celebrations for her and phone records showing more than 100 calls to one number in the Philippines. As well, a bank employee testified Ms. Sarmiento used her passport to open a bank account. The defence suggested Ms. Sarmiento lied about being kept in domestic servitude in an effort to become a permanent resident, as well as for monetary reasons.
Mr. La Prairie on Wednesday read a victim impact statement from Ms. Sarmiento, who said she is no longer able to trust others since the ordeal.
“Now I doubt everything people say. I am afraid to let someone help me,” the statement read.
"I did good things and worked hard for Mr. Orr, believing my kids would join me [in Canada] when the time comes. I cry all the time and get flashbacks."
Ms. Sarmiento said she recently lost a job because her employer did not believe she was legal to work in Canada due to media attention from the trial. She now has no income to send to her children in the Philippines, she said.
Ms. Sarmiento sat in the courtroom gallery with her arms crossed during the first half of the day's proceedings. Ms. Huen sat several rows away.
The majority of human trafficking cases in Canada relate to domestic human trafficking for the purposes of sexual service. Of 46 human trafficking-related convictions as of late June, sentence have ranged from one day to nine years in prison, said Corporal Nilu Singh of the RCMP's Human Trafficking National Co-ordination.