January 30, 2015
The CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving says he’s shocked that 50 impaired driving cases were stayed this week in court in Gatineau, Que.
The cases had been dragging on for years and the judge agreed with defence lawyers that the delays were unreasonable.
Some of the accused drivers in the 50 cases were arrested as far back as 2009, but the cases were bogged down over arguments about whether maintenance records for breathalyzer machines should be heard in trial.
Breathalyzer evidence is often challenged by defence lawyers who demand to see proof the machines have been properly calibrated. That’s one of the defence strategies employed by Gatineau lawyer Paul Charlebois.
“So we were requesting that the Crown provide us with the maintenance records of those machines, the certifications of the technicians to see if they were qualified technicians, and so on and so forth,” Charlebois said.
“The Crown’s position was to say everything is irrelevant, … there’s a presumption that everything went correctly and it’s not up to us to give you additional information.”
Charlebois argued in court that fighting with the Crown over access to the breathalyzer records had caused undue delays.
This week a judge agreed and ordered the dozens of cases to be stayed.
“Right now, what we’re talking about is 50 cases in which the procedures were stayed. In other words it’s all over; it’s finished. It’s the equivalent of not having been convicted,” Charlebois said.
Prosecutors can appeal the judge’s decision.
Andrew Murie, the CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said he finds the decision to stay the proceedings “shocking.”
In other jurisdictions, Murie said defence lawyers are quickly provided with proof breathalyzer machines have been properly calibrated.
He can’t understand why that didn’t happen in Gatineau.
“There was no reason for that. Every other jurisdiction in the country dealt with these challenges by the defence, provided the information, and why didn’t these people in Quebec do the same thing?” Murie said.
“And there’s also a responsibility on the judges in these cases to move these things along, instead of accepting delay after delay. And there’s a responsibility on the Crown and the police to provide that information.”
Murie is calling on prosecutors to appeal the cases that were stayed.
The director of prosecutions for the Quebec ministry of the attorney general is reviewing the files but declined to comment at this time.