The Honourable Mr. Justice Peter West, a judge, who was appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice in Newmarket, Ontario on March 17, 2008, released his ruling on November 19, 2009 where he found that a potential jail penalty of up to six(6) months violates the Charter of Rights, because the law doesn’t allow a motorist charged to put forward any defence against Stunt Driving.
In March, 2008 eighteen (18) year old, Ms. Alexandra Drutz was driving in her parent’s car. As she drove north of Toronto on Highway 407, police pulled her over when she was allegedly travelling at 157 km/h and charged her with Stunt Driving.
In his Court of Justice decision, Justice Peter West wrote “There are various ways to be charged under Ontario’s laws designed to target street racers. One of those is to drive 50 km/h over the speed limit, which is the same kind of “absolute liability” offence as other speeding infractions in the Highway Traffic Act.” “It is my view that calling the conduct ‘stunt’ driving does not change its characterization – it is still a speeding offence albeit by a different name”.
“There is no air of reality to the Crown’s submissions that a defendant charged with stunt driving under section 172 of the Highway Traffic Act … has an available defence of due diligence,” wrote Judge Peter West, in an Ontario Court of Justice (Newmarket) ruling released November 19, 2009.
As a result, Judge West dismissed stunt driving charges against Ms. Alexandra Drutz last week.
All other speeding (1-49 km/h over the speed limit) charges under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act fall under section . All charges under section 128 are absolute liability charges and if convicted of speeding, will not send the convicted motorist to jail. Any speeding of 50 km/h or greater, falls under section 172 (Stunt Driving) and has severe consequences attached to a conviction, including six (6) months of incarceration (jail time).
The issue in this case was the possibility of imprisonment for up to six months for an absolute liability offence. Justice Lamer stated in the Supreme Court of Canada case referenced Reference re: Motor Vehicle Act, British Columbia, s. 94(2) (1985) 2 S.C.R., 486 at paragraph two:
“In other words absolute liability and imprisonment cannot be combined.”
On Sept.30/07 the Safer Roads for a Safer Ontario Act (Stunt Driving – see section 172 of the Highway Traffic Act) was implemented in Ontario at 12:01 a.m. One of the main goals of this legislation, which modified the Highway Traffic Act (the HTA), was to target aggressive drivers and street racers who were a hazard to other motor vehicle operators, pedestrians and themselves. The HTA amended the definition of “street racing” to include, “driving a motor vehicle at 50 km/h (or 31.0686 miles per hour) or greater, above the speed limit” (see Ontario Regulation 455/07). Since the Stunt Driving law was implemented in Ontario 26 months ago, there have been over fifteen thousand (15,000) Stunt Driving charges laid against motorists on Ontario’s highways, roads and streets.
Some background on Judge Peter West:
See the Summer 2008 edition of the “LAURENTIAN“(LAURENTIAN UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE FOR ALUMNI AND FRIENDS) which states the following about Ontario Justice of the Peace, Peter West:
“Lynn and Peter West (BA 1977) send greetings to Laurentian alumni and friends. Lynn tells us that Peter, after receiving his history/political science degree, went to Osgoode Hall Law School and was called to the bar in 1982. He became a criminal lawyer and was a partner in the law firm of Cooper, Sandler, and West, practising law for over 26 years. He was appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice in Newmarket, Ontario, on March 17, 2008. His title is the Honourable Mr. Justice Peter West. His family is very proud of his accomplishments, and he is honoured and enthused about his new role as a judge. Lynn and Peter have three children, Courtney (who is married and about to be called to the bar as a lawyer in June 2008), Matthew, and Rebecca – who are students. Lynn praises Laurentian University, and says that it provided a solid footing for their future.
The Honourable Justice Gregory Regis
Regional Senior Judge for Central East Region
The Honourable Justice Simon C. Armstrong
The Honourable Justice George Beatty
The Honourable Justice Robert W. Beninger
The Honourable Justice Paul L. Bellefontaine
The Honourable Justice Justice Michael Block
The Honourable Justice Richard Blouin
The Honourable Justice Peter Nicholas Bourque
The Honourable Justice Lorne E. Chester
The Honourable Justice Howard I. Chisvin
The Honourable Justice James C. Crawford
The Honourable Justice Nancy A. Dawson
The Honourable Justice Joseph A. De Filippis
The Honourable Justice Peter DeFreitas
The Honourable Justice Mary Teresa E. Devlin
The Honourable Justice Jon-Jo Douglas
The Honourable Justice John D.D. Evans
The Honourable Justice Lucia Favret
The Honourable Justice William A. Gorewich
The Honourable Justice Robert Graydon
The Honourable Justice Donald J. Halikowski
The Honourable Justice Michael Harpur
The Honourable Justice C. Roland Harris
The Honourable Justice Anne-Marie Hourigan
The Honourable Justice Karen E. Johnston
The Honourable Justice Joseph F. Kenkel
The Honourable Justice Glenn D. Krelove
The Honourable Justice Susan C. MacLean
The Honourable Justice Robert P. Main
The Honourable Justice Robert McCreary
The Honourable Justice Ronald A. Minard
The Honourable Justice J. Rhys Morgan
The Honourable Justice Katrina Mulligan
The Honourable Justice Ronald J. Richards
The Honourable Justice David M. Stone
The Honourable Justice Peter Tetley
The Honourable Justice Graham Wakefield
The Honourable Justice Peter C. West
The Honourable Justice Timothy C. Whetung
The Honourable Justice Joseph B. Wilson
The Honourable Justice Peter J. Wright
The first case, in which Judge Griffin declared that the charge of Stunt Driving was unconstitutional, called R. v. Raham, is being appealed by Ontario’s Attorney General, and is expected to be heard within the next two (2) months. The Attorney General is taking the position that the Province has the right to lay Stunt Driving charges in the interest of public safety.