Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Two sets of laws?
Got an interesting email this week from reader JP, who begins with the following statement: "I don't know if this story is newsworthy but I would like to bring it to your attention."He then goes on to chronicle a very interesting legal challenge he launched - and lost - in provincial traffic court.Have a read of JP's story - and view the pictures he took and sent my way - and then let me know what you think about what he did and how the court ruled. Was he out of line? Or did he make a valid point?Here's what happened, in JP's own words.
"On May 2nd of this year, my vehicle was one of the many thousands clocked, using a mobile photo radar van, travelling at 79 km/h (below the regular speed limit of 80 km/h) on Bishop Grandin Blvd close to the Fort Garry bridge. However with the construction going on at the time, this was above the temporary speed limit of 60 km/h.Sure enough, I received a ticket for $195 in the mail a few weeks later, indicating that I was being charged with an offense under the highway traffic act section 95-1 (speeding). Fair enough I thought, until I took a walk to the scene of the crime. Enclosed are pictures taken indicating that the entire stretch of Bishop Grandin westbound from St. Mary's Rd. all the way to the Fort Garry bridge is in fact a "no stopping anytime" zone, precisely where the photo radar van was set up.
Upon learning this, I downloaded and read the entire Manitoba Highway Traffic Act to see if there are any instances when a vehicle used by a police force is legally allowed to ignore a no stopping sign. Sure enough, Section 106 provides clear direction. Such a vehicle can only park/stop in this area if they are responding to an emergency or in the actual act of pursuing a violator or suspected violator of the law. I'm sure these commissionaires are not "actively pursuing" violators of the law when they are setting up their cameras. Section 106 goes on to say that if a vehicle used by a police force does indeed exercise these priviledges, they must have a horn or siren operating, and must in all cases have due regard for the safety of all motorists on the road.
Bingo, I thought. Open and shut case. The commissionaire's photo evidence was taken in contravention of the Highway Traffic Act! I went down to 373 Broadway to plead not guilty, and got myself a court date which was today at 2 PM (September 18th). I presented my case, cross-examined the commissionaire who indicated there was no emergency, they were not actively pursuing a violator of the law, there was no horn or siren being operated. I added the fact that it was a safety hazard to have a vehicle parked in a no-stopping zone for hours on end on such a busy stretch of road.
Well imagine my surprise when the ruling came down that section 106 doesn't apply in this case! Apparently, according to this justice anyway, commissionaires are exempt from the Highway Traffic Act if they are in construction zones (I thought all vehicles were subject to the HTA)! Ruling: GUILTY. A token reduction in the fine to $100 to shut me up and make it not worth appealing to a higher court. To add insult to injury, the prosecuting attorney even made a closing argument that my case wasn't about a commissionaire's actions even if they were illegal. When was the last time you saw a commissionaire in a photo radar van getting a ticket?So there you have it, two sets of rules... one for the traffic enforcers and one for the rest of us. They can now break the law to catch you!"What do you make of this? Post your comments below.