Court of Appeal overturns Stunt Driving Acquittal for Jane Raham

Update: see previous related posts – post 1 , post 2post 3.

Since the introduction of the Stunt Driving laws on September 30, 2007 at 12.01 a.m. (see Safer Roads for a Safer Ontario Act) thousands of driver’s on Ontario roads have been charged. In most cases, the driver of a motor vehicle only needs to be travelling at 50 km/h or greater, to be charged under this relatively new law.  In two cases ( Ms. Alexandra Drutz and Ms. Jane Raham) the charges were dismissed as unconstitutional, due to the automatic conviction to follow, the defendant’s inability to put forward a defence to the charge and the potential of a six (6) month jail sentence being imposed.

On April 29, 2008 Ms. Jane Raham was charged with stunt driving while she was driving 131 km/h in an 80 km/h stretch of Highway 7. As a result of the charge rendered, Ms. Raham decided to fight her ticket.  On May 30, 2007  Ms. Raham’s trial was scheduled to proceed in front of  His Worship, Justice of the Peace, Jack Chiang. Upon hearing the evidence and Ms. Raham’s constitutional argument (violation of section 7 of the Charter ), Justice of the Peace Jack Chiang registered a conviction against Ms. Raham.

Ms. Raham’s representative filed an appeal. The “Notice of Appeal” stated that the “Justice of the Peace erred in finding that the section was constitutional under section 7 of the Charter of Rights”.

The appeal was subsequently heard by Judge Geoffrey J. Griffin on July 23 , 2009 in a Napanee Court of Justice courtroom. On September 4, 2009 Judge Griffin rendered his decision orally (read Judge Griffin’s ruling). Judge Griffin agreed with the representations of Ms. Raham’s representative, in that the stunt driving law that Ms. Raham was convicted of, violated the constitution.

Shortly thereafter, the Attorney General of Ontario, Mr. Chris Bentley, announced in a press conference that the Province would appeal Judge Griffin’s ruling in the Raham case. Attorney General Chris Bentley said the province doesn’t believe the law goes against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Province, through the Attorney General’s office, appeal this decision. Leave to appeal was granted by Justice Lang on October 2, 2009.

On January 20, 2010 the Court of Appeal of Ontario heard the Attorney General’s appeal.

The Court of Appeal of Ontario, consisting of Justices Doherty, Feldman and Blair JJ.A. heard the case (R. v. Raham, 2010 ONCA 206) and rendered a decision on March 18, 2010.

In their unanimous decision, the Court of Appeal came to the following conclusion:

” The appeal judge (Judge Geoffrey J. Griffin) erred in holding that stunting driving as defined in s. 3(7) was an absolute liability offence. His acquittal based on that finding must be set aside.

Although the trial judge proceeded on the basis that the offence was one of strict liability, given the uncertainty at the time of the trial as to the availability of a due diligence defence and the contours of that defence if available, fairness dictates that the respondent should have a new trial at which she will have the opportunity to advance a due diligence defence if so advised. I would allow the appeal, set aside the acquittal and order a new trial.”

If Ms. Raham wants to appeal this decision, she could only do so, by “seeking leave to appeal” to the Supreme Court of Canada. If no appeal is launched, then this precedent will remain in place, in the Province of Ontario.

See CBC story and Court of Appeal of Ontario decision in this matter.

March 25, 2010 – Off duty police officer is charged with stunt driving (130 km/h in an 80 km/h zone).

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