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Crown abandons appeal of photo-radar tickets

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The Crown has abandoned its appeal of a traffic court case that saw a judge throw out nine photo-radar tickets snapped in construction zones where workers weren’t present.
Don Slough, Manitoba’s deputy attorney general, said Monday the decision to drop the appeal wasn’t made on the merits of the case, but the fact police weren’t ticketing speeders according to the letter of the law.
Slough said when Crown officials examined the case following the lower court’s decision they learned signage warning motorists of construction zones had not been set up correctly.
By law a sign must be set up at start of construction zone and at the end, he said.
Slough said it was determined a sign had only been placed at the beginning.
As a result the Crown has dropped 857 ticket cases still in pending in the court process. Ticket holders will be notified by mail.
Slough also said as of April 11 police and the city are using the correct signs when using photo radar.
Because of the sign issue, Slough said the Crown decided late Friday to abandon the appeal.
Photo radar made headlines earlier this year when third-year University of Manitoba law student Jodi Koffman successfully argued it was the intention of lawmakers to only enforce reduced speeds in construction zones when workers are present and not otherwise.
Judge Norm Sundstrom agreed. In a written decision he said in all of the cases before him the motorists were proven to have exceeded the temporary posted speed of 60 kilometres per hour -- not the actual 80 km/h speed limit -- in worker-free construction zones.
The Crown appealed Sundstrom’s decision.
In a recent legislative committee hearing, Attorney General Dave Chomiak weighed in on the issue.
He said limiting photo-radar operators’ ability to ticket speeders in construction zones to times when workers are present makes the most sense.
"To me that conveys a better image to the public than the latter," Chomiak said. "So I think it makes a lot of sense to the public that, if there are visible signs of work in construction and safety, then they ought to adhere to slower guidelines. But, if it’s a weekend, on a long weekend, in the summertime, and it’s 2 a.m. in the morning, I think it’s a pretty good indication that they can use their discretion and not necessarily slow down."
Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill has also said there should be no photo radar at construction sites where workers are not present unless there are restrictions to the roadway that would make it unsafe.
McCaskill has also said photo radar improves public safety and discourages drivers from speeding.
Police are currently looking at how use of the cameras can be expanded.
bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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