Manitoba’s highest court has rejected a legal challenge to the province’s traffic laws that allow the owner of a vehicle to be ticketed for offences captured on photo radar, regardless of who was driving.
"To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement," Raymond Bernier, 72, said Thursday.
Bernier — whose vehicle was caught speeding by a photo radar camera in 2016 and 2017 — had argued that a 30-year-old provision of the Highway Traffic Act allowing him to be ticketed as the owner of the vehicle violated his right to be presumed innocent.
Under the provision, which was put in place before photo radar cameras were installed in Manitoba, the registered owner of a vehicle can be held responsible for offences of another person who is driving the vehicle.
The Manitoba Court of Appeal five-judge panel ruled on Wednesday the facts of the case did not merit interfering with the act, after listening to arguments during a 2½-hour hearing
"There have to be exceptional circumstances for us to overturn a precedent of some 30 years," said Justice Freda Steel.
Detailed written reasons for the court’s decision will be released at a later date, Steel said.
Bernier, whose court challenge was funded by traffic enforcement watchdog Wise Up Winnipeg, said he will decide his next move, if there is one, when the written decision is released.
A split decision would pave the way for a possible run to the Supreme Court of Canada, Bernier said.
"The Supreme Court would still have to agree to hear it," he said. "They may still reject our application to even hear it."
Wise Up’s Todd Dube was disappointed with the decision.
"I’d like to think the province reviews the legislation that allows them to do it," he said.
Dube said Manitoba should follow the model of U.S. states such as California and Texas where photo radar tickets include pictures of both the vehicle’s licence plate and the driver.
"They need to serve that ticket to the driver," he said.
"To give (a ticket) to an inanimate object wouldn’t have been argued before photo radar."
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.