WiseUp Winnipeg pulled the pin on its legal challenge to photo radar Friday in a sudden move that stunned courtroom observers, but opened the door for their case to end up in a higher court.
It was planned to be a day of duelling expert testimony on whether a camera unit at Grant Avenue and Nathaniel Street inaccurately records speeds due to interference from metal sign poles, but that didn't happen.
Instead, WiseUp folded its cards after magistrate Lori Nelson laid down the ground rules on how things should proceed, in the process denying two requests by WiseUp's lawyer, Kerry Unruh. Unruh acts for Michael Ruiz, whose vehicle was snapped by a photo- radar camera at Grant and Nathaniel on Oct. 12, 2011 going 67 kilometres per hour in the 50 km/h zone.
Unruh wanted to adjourn the ticket trial to give WiseUp's expert witness Ken Sontag more time to review material supplied by the Crown about the camera setup at the corner outside Grant Park High School.
Unruh said WiseUp only got the information about nine days before the trial when it should have had it 30 days before the trial started.
Unruh also asked for police to hand over the manual police use in setting up and deploying photo radar. Previous requests by WiseUp for the manual have been denied.
In denying the requests, Nelson sided with Crown attorney John Barr that under the law, it was not the court or the Crown's job to help prepare Sontag if he claims to be an expert witness.
With those two decisions, WiseUp's Todd Dube, an outspoken critic of the city's photo-enforcement program, said the group decided to end the challenge in order to appeal Nelson's decision in Court of Queen's Bench.
It meant Ruiz was found guilty and was given 90 days to pay a $266.75 fine.
Ruiz said the abrupt end to his case -- which started in March -- was not a bitter pill because he plans to appeal to get another day in court.
"There are two simple errors that will easily be overturned on an appeal," Dube added, saying the group has two other cases lined up to challenge the Grant and Nathaniel camera. "We're going to be right back in here and take a proper run at it."
Controversy over the camera was raised a year ago just after police placed the camera near the Grant Park 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 on Friday. WiseUp's decision meant neither testified.