Manitoba

Manitoba judge throws out speeding ticket after court delays

A Manitoba judge has dismissed a speeding ticket because it took too long for her case to get to court.

Winnipeg woman waited 18 months for court date after alleged speeding incident

A judge has thrown out a Winnipeg woman's speeding ticket after the Crown took too long to prosecute her case. (CBC)

In a precedent-setting decision, a Manitoba judge has dismissed a speeding ticket because it took too long for her case to get to court.

Wise-Up Winnipeg, an advocacy group for people who get traffic tickets, says this decision could have a big impact on others who are waiting for court dates to fight their tickets.

A Winnipeg woman was accused of speeding near the corner of Bedson Street near Assiniboine Grove in Winnipeg on Oct. 27, 2014. The charge stemmed from a photo radar investigation.

According to court documents, she entered a not guilty plea on Dec. 18, 2014 and seven weeks later, she was notified her trial date would be April 27, 2016 — 18 months to the day after the alleged speeding incident.

"For reasons that remain unclear," Judge Mary Kate Harvie wrote in her decision, the prosecution's disclosure package was not mailed to the accused until Dec. 28, 2015, more than a year after she entered her not-guilty plea.
In a precedent-setting decision, a Manitoba judge has dismissed a speeding ticket because it took too long for her case to get to court. 1:47

"I find that the unexplained delay in producing the appropriate disclosure to both Crown and defence counsel to be very concerning," Harvie wrote in her decision. "The delay in the prosecution of this matter is unreasonable."

While speeding is a serious offence, the judge said there's "significance" to the accused argument that the delays puts her case at a disadvantage.

"The accused asserts in her affidavit that the passage of time has impacted on her ability to recall events around the time of the offence and specifically who may have been operating her vehicle at the time of the incident," wrote Harvie.

"An accused is entitled to raise a defence to the charge and has the right to do so within a reasonable period of time." Harvie added a reasonable amount of time in a case like this would be four to six months after a plea is entered.

A spokesperson for Manitoba Justice told CBC the Crown will be reviewing Harvie's decision to determine whether it will appeal. 

"As a result, we are unable to provide further comments at this time," the spokesperson said.

Todd Dube, founder of Wise Up Winnipeg, said anyone fighting a traffic ticket who has had to wait longer than six months for their day in court should cite Harvie's decision and argue their Charter rights have been violated.

"I think it's incumbent on the Crown, they have a fiduciary duty to the public, to not oppose that argument," said Dube.

A 2015 investigation by CBC, found that drivers in Manitoba often wait up to 18 months to see a judge if they choose to plead not guilty to a traffic offence.

The use of photo radar in recent years has increased the number of fines handed out in Winnipeg. The technology has netted millions in revenue but has added to a backlog of accused drivers waiting to fight their tickets in court, the CBC found.

Approximately 25 per cent of people ticketed choose to appeal the charges, said Shauna Curtin, assistant deputy minister in the courts division of Manitoba Justice in 2015.

with files from Erin Brohman