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This article was published 18/5/2016 (1185 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Thousands of outstanding traffic tickets may have been rendered invalid after a Winnipeg woman had her photo radar ticket tossed by the courts because of unreasonable delay.
Provincial court Judge Mary Kate Harvie said in a 12-page written decision released Wednesday that she agreed that a trial date of April 27, 2016 — 18 months to the day after the offence allegedly occurred — was "unreasonable and represents a violation of (the Canadian) Charter (of Rights and Freedoms)."
Harvie said a ticket should take only a few months to come to court because of the "minimal amount of time for preparation and a minimal amount of actual court time."
"It seems reasonable to expect these types of summary proceedings to be completed within four to six months of a plea being entered."
Traffic ticket fighter Todd Dube, of Wise-Up Winnipeg, said the judge’s decision sets "a huge precedent."
"It's not just a win, but a wow." — Todd Dube, Wise-Up Winnipeg
"It’s not just a win, but a wow," Dube said.
"We’re talking about very many thousands of tickets."
Dube said he didn’t know how much money the city will lose, but he expects it to be substantial because each ticket carries, on average, a $380 fine, with the cost fluctuating based on the driver's speed.
A spokesperson for the province’s justice department said "the Crown will be reviewing the decision to determine whether the matter will be appealed.
"As a result, we are unable to provide further comments at this time."
Court was told that Genevieve Grant was caught speeding on Oct. 27, 2014 by a photo radar camera and mailed an offence notice on Nov. 4, 2014, giving her until Dec. 19, 2014 to decide whether to pay it or plead not guilty. When she decided to plead not guilty, the trial date was set for 18 months from the date of the offence.
Grant was not available for comment Wednesday.
Dube said before photo radar was implemented in Winnipeg, it took people about four to five months to get to court.
But Dube said after photo radar came in, and with it the many tickets issued daily, it took longer to get to court.
Dube said as bad as the court backlog was when Grant was issued her ticket, it has actually got even worse since then.
"Now it takes 22 months from the time you plead not guilty to get a court date," he said.
"All anyone has to do is go in to court with this precedence and refer to it... you’ll still have to demonstrate you were affected in some way because of the delay, but the judge even answered that. She said because of the delay your memory of what happened is diminished."
It’s not the first time the city has lost court cases involving thousands of tickets.
Just last month, following a court challenge, Winnipeg city hall said it would write off unpaid parking tickets six years or older because officials have now determined the tickets were written incorrectly and information wasn’t sent to the courts within the required time frame.
"In terms of the tickets being ‘tossed,’ first and foremost the intention of the detection of the offence and the subsequent fine is to change driver behaviour," said Insp. Gord Friesen, commander of the Winnipeg Police Service’s community support division, which includes the central traffic unit, in an email Wednesday.
"If there is no fine associated with the detection of the offence this will decrease the likeliness of changing the dangerous driving behaviour.
"Also some of the revenue generated from the Photo Enforcement Program (PEP) is incorporated into the WPS budget," he added.
Figures he provided from the 2015 Photo Enforcement Annual Report show the Winnipeg Police Service reported 2015 Photo Enforcement Program revenues as $17,252,999.39 with expenses of $5,517,736.
Once all costs were added up, the surplus from photo radar enforcement was $11,735,263.
"As the Photo Enforcement program is part of the Winnipeg Police Service, any net surplus is incorporated into the overall budget to fund other policing activities," Friesen wrote.
"So less fines paid means less money for our budget to fund policing activities."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
Updated on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at 3:25 PM CDT: Adds photo, document
3:32 PM: Headline fixed
5:49 PM: Writethru
6:01 PM: Changes photo
8:29 PM: Correction: Photo-radar speeding fines are $380 on average, with the cost fluctuating based on driver's recorded speed.