Manitoba judge overturns precedent-setting decision on traffic ticket delays

Vic Toews's career controversies: From unpaid rent to campaign overspending

Manitoba Justice Vic Toews has overturned a precedent-setting decision that dismissed a traffic ticket because it took too long for the case to get to trial.

A former federal public safety and justice minister under prime minister Stephen Harper, Toews said Judge Mary Kate Harvie erred in her decision when she ruled a woman accused of speeding in a school zone had to wait an unreasonable time for her day in court and stayed the proceedings.

Between the date the accused was issued a ticket and the date her case went to trial, she had to wait 18 months less eight days.

"I find in this case that there is no evidence that the case took markedly longer than it reasonably should have," Toews wrote in his decision March 6.

Toews' decision means the case will head back to court to stand a second trial.

R. v Jordan sets 18-month deadline

While the accused was not issued a ticket until Nov. 3, 2014, the actual date of the alleged speeding infraction was Oct. 27, 2014.

The date of the incident is important because it is 18 months to the day before she had her day in court. Harvie, in the earlier decision, called that an unreasonable amount of time to wait to defend oneself against a speeding ticket.

"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," she wrote in the May 18, 2016 decision.

Nearly two months after Harvie stayed the proceedings, the Supreme Court of Canada set out new rules for reasonable wait times for trial dates.

Canada's highest court found, for matters before provincial court, the accused has the right to a day in court within 18 months.

Toews calculates the matter as being issued just shy of the 18-month mark, using the date the ticket was issued: Nov. 4, 2014.

"From the date of the offence notice being issued to the date of the trial is approximately eight days less than 18 months," he wrote.

According to Harvie, four to six months is a reasonable amount of time to wait to fight a ticket in court.

Toews came to a different conclusion, pointing to the Jordan case as evidence that delays of 17 and 18 months are not unreasonable and noted Harvie, the "learned" judge, proceeded without the benefit of the R. v Jordan decision.