Supreme Court dismisses appeal in controversial dangerous driving case that sparked debate about law
WARNING: Story contains graphic video of car crash
The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld a man's conviction in the controversial case of a speeding driver who killed a beloved doctor in 2015 when he sped through a Vancouver intersection.
Ken Chung's silver Audi was going 140 km/h in a 50 km/h zone moments before it slammed into the red Suzuki driven by Dr. Alphonsus Hui, who was making a left-hand turn at the intersection of Oak Street and West 41st Avenue.
Provincial Court Judge Gregory Rideout originally found that Chung didn't have what is known in law as the mens rea — or guilty mind — required to find him guilty of dangerous driving causing death.
British Columbia's appeal court overturned the decision in 2019 and entered a conviction, prompting Chung to take his case to the Supreme Court.
During the original trial, Rideout said evidence showed Chung was going the speed limit before accelerating to 139 km/h just a block before the accident. He didn't run any stop signs. He didn't swerve into oncoming lanes.
WARNING: Graphic video — Dash-cam video shows the moment of impact:
He said the conditions didn't require additional caution and that Chung was, in fact, braking at the time he entered the intersection.
Rideout ruled those factors illustrated that Chung's actions constituted a momentary lapse and was therefore "insufficient to meet the criminal fault component."
The judge ruled Chung's speeding was only momentary and therefore amounted to a lapse of judgment rather than a significant departure from the standard of a reasonably prudent driver.
But in its decision Friday, the high court said the trial judge's fixation on the momentary nature of the speeding was an error of law.
In writing for the 4-1 majority, Justice Sheilah Martin said Chung's actions were not comparable to momentary mistakes that might be made by any reasonable driver, such as a mistimed turn on to a highway or the sudden loss of awareness or control.
"A reasonable person would have foreseen the immediate risk of reaching a speed of almost three times the speed limit while accelerating towards a major city intersection," she wrote. "Mr. Chung's conduct in these circumstances is a marked departure from the norm."
Disturbing dashcam footage of the collision was released by Rideout on application from three media organizations, including the CBC.
Rideout said the case elicited an outpouring of emotion unparalleled in his 13 years on the bench.
After the initial not guilty ruling, an online petition calling for harsher legislation to address repeat excessive speeders garnered tens of thousands of signatures.
Chung was charged with a separate excessive speeding offence nearly two years after he collided with Hui, when police caught him driving a Jaguar at 108 km/h — more than twice the speed limit — on Granville Street. In that incident, he was fined $368.
With files from The Canadian Press