THE Selinger government introduced legislation Monday to make it simpler to pay fines for certain highway, liquor and wildlife offences while modernizing the enforcement of municipal bylaws.
Bill 38 (the Provincial Offences Act and Municipal By-Law Enforcement Act) would replace the 50-year-old Summary Convictions Act, Justice Minister Andrew Swan said.
He said the government will be moving to increase the number of set fines under the Highway Traffic Act and other provincial laws so fines can be paid more easily and not entail a court appearance.
"We think that this will really modernize and reform the way that these cases move through the system," Swan said shortly after introducing the bill.
He added anyone who wants to contest a ticket or plead guilty with an explanation will still be able to do so.
"What we're doing is we're modernizing and improving the way the system works, recognizing that a speeding ticket likely should be dealt with differently in our criminal justice system from a serious criminal offence," he said.
Another change would allow police officers and equipment testers to submit documents to court, called certificate evidence, to prove technical or routine matters. For instance, this could be used to show speed-timing devices were operating properly at the time a ticket was issued. Police officers and testers currently have to be in court to present this evidence. The use of certificate evidence would be allowed only in matters with a pre-set fine. The courts would still have the authority to require a police officer or tester to attend if necessary.
The legislation would also make it less cumbersome for municipalities to enforce certain bylaws, Swan said.
"Right now, if a municipality wants to pursue payment of a bylaw infraction, generally it means hiring a lawyer and going to court. We are going to empower municipalities to simplify that process," Swan said.
Instead of a trial in provincial court, the proposed legislation would allow for a hearing in front of a municipal "screening officer," he said. "It will take the expense and delay of court proceedings and turn it into something much more effective."