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Crown to question radar expert in speeding case

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It’s either the first nail in the coffin or the start of a legal challenge of photo radar that could end up in the province’s highest court.

This morning in Traffic Court Magistrate Lori Nelson denied a request by lawyer Kerry Unruh to adjourn a photo radar ticket trial. Unruh acts for Michael Ruiz, who was snapped by a photo radar camera at Grant Avenue and Nathaniel Street on Oct. 12, 2011 going 67 kilometres per hour in the 50 km/h zone.

Ruiz, a certified engineering technologist, has said he couldn't have been going that fast because it was raining and has pleaded not guilty.

Ruiz’s defence hangs on whether the camera at Grant and Nathaniel Street inaccurately records speeds due to interference from metal sign poles.

Unruh told Nelson he wanted the case adjourned so that his expert witness, Winnipeg businessman Ken Sontag, could review new material supplied by the Crown before having to testify. Sontag was declared an expert witness in another photo radar ticket case.

Unruh also wanted police to disclose the manual for the photo radar system.

Nelson refused both requests.

Her decision means Sontag is to be questioned by the Crown this afternoon about his qualifications as an expert witness in Ruiz’s defence.

If Nelson finds he has no qualifications, it could mean Ruiz’s case falls apart.

Ruiz and Sontag are backed by anti-camera advocacy group WiseUp Winnipeg.

WiseUp spokesman Todd Dube said should Sontag not be declared an expert witness, the group may appeal to a higher court.

"Should we suffer a loss, we’ll immediately go to appeal court where we believe this should be heard in the first place," Dube said.

Controversy over the camera was raised a year ago just after police placed the camera near the Grant Park-area intersection. Dozens of drivers complained the tickets they received were incorrect because the distance from the intersection to the camera unit was too short for them to reach such speeds.

Manitoba's Justice Department has recruited Dutch scientist Ted Janssen, a senior adviser at Gatsometer BV (the company that manufactures the photo-radar equipment used by city police), and University of Manitoba Prof. Lotfollah Shafai, an expert in electromagnetic modelling, to give evidence the Grant and Nathaniel camera setup produces accurate speed readings. Both were in court this morning.

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