“Lack of care must be serious enough to merit punishment.”

(The wreck that was Violet Gooding’s car on Dec. 3, 2008/Marcel Cretain/Winnipeg Sun)

The full facts of John Casanova’s acquittal for dangerous driving in the fatality of Violet Gooding, 90, on Dec. 3, 2008 can be found here. I won’t repeat them.

But it’s important to point out Judge Marvin Garfinkel’s ruling today followed from a consideration of a large number of applicable cases presented by the Crown and defence that dealt with dangerous driving, “the standard of care” and the continuum of negligence with respect to dangerous drive offences.

In other words, Garfinkel surveyed and interpreted the law of the land in Canada as presented to him and arrived at the following (you’ll get the import of the law and his analysis in what’s presented below).

“It is with the principles of these cases that the facts in this case involving Mr. Casanova must be considered and assessed.

Consequences of the collision in this case were tragic. Violet Gooding died. There is nothing that this court can do that can repair that harm.

It is a tragedy.

However, the principles of previous cases show that the consequences are not a determinative factor. The manner of driving in this context must be assessed.

The cases, the principles cited show that there is a continuum of negligence. A departure from a standard of care expected of a prudent driver may give rise to civil liability.

For a criminal sanction to be imposed, it must be proven there was a marked departure from the standard of care of a prudent driver.

The lack of proper care must be sufficiently serious to merit criminal punishment.

Mr. Casanova was operating his motor vehicle on St. Mary’s Road between 10 and 10:30 a.m.  The vehicle was equipped with studded tires, but it can’t be said with certaintly what effect that had on the collision.

The road was clear, the sun was shining. There was no obstruction to vision.

Mr. Casanova was speeding. His speed was excessive. He left the red light quickly and moved into the left lane.

It would appear that vehicles speeding on St. Mary’s Road in this area were not unusual.

However, Mr. Casanova’s speed was excessive.

Violet Gooding had vision problems. What effect that had on the circumstances cannot be stated. It is not known. Moreover, there is no contributory negligence factor in a criminal prosecution.

It is not known when Mr. Casanova saw the turning vehicle.

Infrences from testimony of the witnesses can be drawn that Mr. Casanova did not try to brake soon enough, or that he was traveling too fast to stop safely.

That leads to the conclusion that there was a departure from a standard of care that would justify civil liability.

However, the manner of driving did not amount to a marked departure of a standard of care warranting of criminal sanction.

The lack of prudence by speeding is a manner of driving that even the most careful driver may occasionally perform.

I am unconvinced that Mr. Casanova’s manner of driving constituted a marked departure from the standard of care of a reasonably prudent driver in similar circumstances.

Therefore I find the accused not guilty.”

I feel a Crown appeal coming on, but that’s just a hunch. What’s a bet if there is, a ground will involve the line bolded above.

Do speed limits matter in law? Stay tuned.

For the record: Saul Simmonds was Casanova’s lawyer. John Barr acted on behalf of Manitoba Prosecution Service.

The 3rd-ever Golden Crown award

ImageThe third-ever Golden Crown, handed out to some of the best examples of Manitoba prosecutors trying to deter and denounce unlawful conduct goes to…

John Barr — head of youth prosecutions for Manitoba Justice — for at least attempting to put some backbone into what should happen when youths serving so-called “community supervision” portions of their sentences are breached for thumbing their noses at court-ordered conditions. 

Barr recently fought hard to have a provincial court judge’s decision granting bail to a kid accused (but not convicted) of breaching conditions of his 18-month sentence thrown out. 

The kid spent a year in jail with the last six months of his 18-month sentence meant to be served under supervision in the community. 

He got out in July, 2011 but by October was charged with breaching his court-ordered curfew by his probation officer. (And we all know by now what it can take to get a PO to breach a kid). 

However, Barr lost after Justice Brenda Keyser ruled it was unfair to allow adults to get bail on sentence-related breaches but not youths charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. 

Barr had argued that bail provisions in the YCJA only applied to youths who aren’t yet sentenced. Therefore, the court who granted bail in the first place had no jurisdiction to do so.

The kid’s lawyer argued it would be unfair to subject youths to harsher treatment than an adult might receive; that if an adult serving a conditional sentence can apply for bail in light of a suspected breach, then a youth should be provided the same opportunity. 

Keyser agreed, suggesting silence in the YCJA on the subject of bail for kids accused of breaching their sentences had to do with its “liberal construction” — in other words bail or release from custody is always a consideration or presumed. 

Under the YCJA, the “least restrictive” sanctions to provide criminal kids “meaningful consequences” is paramount. 

“Under the circumstances I find it to be unfair to allow an adult to apply for bail in these situations and not a youth … it would not be consistent with the expressed purpose of the YCJA to interpret the incorporated bail provisions of the Criminal Code as restricting their applicability only to young persons charged with an offence,” Keyser wrote. 

The real kicker is that if the kid is ultimately convicted of the breach, he’ll most likely get probation or even a fine, so even if it’s proven he thumbed his nose at the court, it won’t truly deter him from doing it again. 

That’ll teach him.

Regardless of the loss, I salute Mr. Barr for his efforts. We all should. 

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