see story in the Star
A senior Durham police officer accused of speeding and street racing got a lucky break in the form of a missing word.
In an unusual twist that leaves Staff Sgt. John Givelas unlikely to face trial, a justice of the peace declared a document with details of the case a “nullity” because the date on it doesn’t include the month.
While everyone knows the information was sworn in May of this year, the law doesn’t operate according to common sense, Justice of the Peace David Grant said in Whitby court on Tuesday.
Noting the seriousness of the charges against Givelas, Grant ruled the document was unacceptable for legal reasons.
Givelas, a 22-year veteran of Durham Region police who once preached safe driving to students, was stopped on his way home from work at 5 a.m. on March 9, according to police.
While the speed of his SUV on Taunton Rd. in Ajax was not disclosed, to warrant a racing charge it would have been observed travelling at least 50 km/h over the posted limit of 80 km/h.
Two officers who pursued Givelas’ vehicle in a cruiser with flashing lights did not know who they were pulling over, a spokesperson said at the time. Highway Traffic Act charges of speeding and racing were laid two weeks later.
Unless Tuesday’s decision is overturned in an appeal by the Crown, the case will not proceed, Grant said in an interview later.
“There’s a defect on the information document. It’s found to be dead,” he said, adding it was an uncommon occurrence. “We are bound by the law whether we like the decision or not.”
Crown Attorney Jim Hughes, who was brought in from Peterborough for the case, declined to comment. Givelas, who appeared friendly and relaxed in a dark suit, and his counsel, Jeffery Smart, also refused to discuss the ruling.
But outside a hearing on the issue a month ago, Hughes said the justice of the peace who swore the information on May 17 left off the full date. Unless that omission could be resolved to the satisfaction of the court, the case could be dismissed, he explained.
The document was a second attempt by police to lay out the details of the charges for the court. The original papers had a problem which caused police to file a replacement based on information from the investigating officers.
The replacement document — the one ruled null on Tuesday — was different from the original in the allegations against Givelas, Smart told Grant in October.
Update: November 23, 2010 – Judge’s speeding ticket tossed after Crown doesn’t show up for trial
Update: December 1, 2010 – Crown drops impaired driving charges against Nunavut MLA Moses Aupaluktuq