A further example of youth jails as child-welfare warehouses, or the girl who became a hot potato PART II

Screen Shot 2013-03-27 at 10.56.14 PM “It’s not recommended. It’s not a polite term. It’s not a recommendation —  It’s an order!” — Provincial Court Judge Marvin Garfinkel

Last Thursday, I wrote about this girl (do read before continuing further) — who’s being held at the Manitoba Youth Centre because no suitable Child and Family Services placement can be found for her.

This, despite the fact Canada’s youth justice laws prohibit young people being detained for child-welfare concerns. The girl isn’t an ordinary case. She requires a specialized placement because of her behavioural and other issues.

Again, she’s just 13 and a permanent ward of CFS.

A few readers contacted me via email and other means to express their concern and, in some cases, disgust, that this was happening.

The case, as the previous post made clear, drew Judge Marvin Garfinkel’s ire, largely because it was clear the powers that be in the CFS or justice system were either unable or unwilling to follow a court’s order regarding her placement, one issued months ago.

Her probation order specifically prohibits her from being placed in a hotel room by CFS or any other agency.

But yet, one of the reasons she was back in custody at a jail is because she was placed in a hotel room after the probation order — a legal document setting out supervision requirements as determined by a judge, not CFS or the province — was issued.

[More on this below. However, note carefully the bolded section of the Crown’s statement to the court].

Thursday, her regular lawyer isn’t in court, but an experienced associate of his is.

Garfinkel, sitting again, is told the two advocates spent the afternoon Wednesday working on a motion which was prepped and ready to file — ostensibly trying to get the ‘provincial director’ to act — and more discussion with Crown.

Also in court this day are a lawyer for the Island Lake CFS agency and a worker, and also a representative from Winnipeg’s B&L Resources for Children, Youth and Families.

There’s still no placement for her, Garfinkel is told.

Still, the Crown is ready to consent to her release.

Garfinkel is told the agency has made attempts, but there is no placement — they are looking into a number of issues.

But, there’s no grounds to keep her in custody as far as I’m concerned, her defence lawyer says.

The lawyer for CFS then steps to the podium and fills the judge in on what’s now happening.

Here’s the bulk of the exchange, verbatim.

CFS Lawyer (CFS): The agency has been working quite a bit on trying to find a suitable placement for [girl] — obviously there’s some high needs involved here.

Garfinkel: Is the child for whom there is an existing order of judge Harvie?

CFS: Yes. I’ll just give Your Honour some more background.

Garfinkel: I recall this.

CFS: This was the matter where Judge Harvie ordered there was to be no placement in a hotel room.

Garfinkel: Yes.

CFS: And you brought to [Lawyer’s] attention. Just so your honour knows the full story, [The defence lawyer] also spoke with … the provincial director yesterday, and brought this to his attention and he’s working to find a placement as well — he’s now aware that she’s not to be placed in a hotel. We also spoke with Corey La Berge from the Child Advocate’s office and [the office] has a worker assigned … and Mr. La Berge is making attempts to assist with a placement at well.

[The worker] has thoroughly exhausted institutional placements. All of them advise that either they don’t have room or they’ll be able to meet her criteria. However, As indicated, there is a case manager here from B&L and a possible foster placement. I’ve been speaking with them this morning. It is anticipated a timeline of about a week to transition [the girl] to that home should that be a suitable placement. It sounds like a good plan is in place there. Of course, the issue we’re faced with today is [the girl’s] imminent release today. [Another person] has made some inquiries to [a program], which is also a placement — they advise they have a place available but they’re, as we speak, reviewing [the girl’s] application, which I should point out was actually made a couple of months ago and no response was ever received from them. So they are re-reviewing that to determine if that spot can be taken by [the girl]. And we are also waiting back to hear if any possible Places of Safety can possibly take her today.

Obviously we don’t want her to remain in custody anymore than anybody else. At the same time, we want to make sure she has a suitable placement to go to. So that is where we are today. My hope is that we can find at least a temporary placement as soon as possible today so that she can then be transitioned into the other home.

Garfinkel: OK. Thank you for your comments.

Crown: With respect to the matter on the docket … it involves three counts from a date of Jan. 24th of this year [assault with weapon and two breaches]. The Crown will be entering a stay of proceedings. It’s because of what’s already been touched upon by my learned friend. The order of Judge Harvie specifically stated that a residence was supposed to be found and not a hotel placement. This incident occurred while [the girl] was a resident at [a downtown hotel]. After my read of the file yesterday, based on that fact alone, I decided that a stay of proceedings will be entered on that matter. And for that reason.

They then proceed with a consent release hearing — she’s officially ordered freed on an undertaking. The undertaking says she must reside as directed by CFS but not be a hotel placement [but the probation order indicates it’s the provincial director’s responsibility].

Garfinkel: I want to thank you all for coming.

Yesterday, we were a little disturbed by circumstances that existed. Quite candidly we didn’t have the information that we have now. And I think you have to remember that this facility is a criminal justice facility. It no longer is a place of shelter under the old Child Welfare Act and the Juvenile Delinquent’s Act. Parliament has made a clear-cut distinction between criminal proceedings and child-protection proceedings. Now, many times, the people involved have both child-protection issues and criminal justice issues. But we have to try and delineate what’s what and what’s what. In this instance, we have this young person accused of committing crimes. She is absolutely presumed to be innocent. She is not to be detained unless the Crown can show cause why detention is necessary. Moreover — she is bound by a probation order which requires her to reside in a certain place. That place is a positive with a negative attachment.

The positive is: she is to reside where directed by the provincial director. The provincial director is a criminal justice official whose office is created by federal legislation. The negative is, that place of residence is not to be a hotel. If she doesn’t like that order, she can instruct her lawyer to appeal it. But until it’s appealed — that order is valid and it must be complied with. None of you here, as I understand it, are representing the provincial director. But each of you may have some conversation with a provincial director and should tell that official that you’re now aware of the order. And the provincial director shouldn’t try to convince you or persuade you to disobey the order …

Defence lawyer: The no-hotel clause came from a [forensic psychologist] as part of a forensic assessment.

Garfinkel: I’m not arguing. Judge Harvie put it into the order. It’s a valid order until it’s repealed or reversed. It must be … if I — let’s say I wanted to do something silly, like say, ‘all of you are in contempt, you’re going to jail,’ – You go to jail. The Sheriff’s officers will physically take you there until the order has changed. 

Lawyer: I just want to make it clear to the agency that that’s not likely to change — even if it comes before a judge because it’s been recommended, it’s be ordered. ..

Garfinkel: It’s not recommended. It’s not a polite term. It’s not a recommendation — [bangs fist down] It’s an order. It’s terrible! (obviously referring to how the probation order hasn’t been obeyed). 

Lawyer: … I’m just saying if anybody thinks there’s going to be a variation to the probation order, everybody needs to keep in mind that there were very good reasons for Judge Harvie ordering that. And it’s not likely that she would change that is what I’m saying.

—-

So there you have it. For weeks, this girl has been languishing in jail, and suddenly, everyone’s now on board trying to find a solution.

I can’t speak to what caused the dramatic turnaround in attention the girl’s case suddenly received, but it’s heartening to see.

That said, it was clear her ethically and legally-questionable jail stint wasn’t likely coming to a quick end at the end of Thursday’s hearing. Efforts were being made, but no placement was available yet.

Now, what I hadn’t realized when I wrote the original piece about this case was that she was in jail partly because of breaches and other charges stemming from an illegal placement in a hotel room taking place more than a month after Judge Harvie’s original order forbid the provincial director (and by virtue of the order, CFS) from placing her in a hotel.

Nothing’s perfect in this world. I get it. And I suspect that the high needs of the girl’s case played a major role in CFS or the provincial director just trying to find her somewhere to stay in the interim.

But the fact is, this case sends a number of concerning messages to the general public.

Not least of those being: If the powers in place to enforce court orders can’t or won’t obey them for whatever reason, then how can we expect anyone else — like offenders — to follow them either?

It’s a black mark on the administration of justice, in my view.

The courts and offenders often wear blame directed at them from the public and the media when people placed on probation reoffend.

I think it’s clear from this one small case that the blame may lie elsewhere, sometimes.

And, more troubling: the above shows how for some of Manitoba’s roughly 10,000 kids in the care of the state, it’s not all that difficult to fall into black holes not of their making.

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A further example of youth jails as child-welfare warehouses, or the girl who became a hot potato

Screen Shot 2013-03-27 at 10.56.14 PMAs a golden rule, Canada’s youth criminal justice system is not to be used as a substitute for the child-welfare system.

But it happens. And it happens here in Manitoba. And it happens for a lot of reasons.

Apparent lethagy by social-services and other government agencies stretched beyond thin in terms of resources is among them.

Sometimes, it appears it’s ineptitude.

Other times, maybe the problem presented is too complex for the system to handle with what’s available in terms of resources.

Today, a concerning case came to light in youth court. Concerning in a systemic sense.

It involves a troubled 13-year-old girl, a permanent ward of an aboriginal CFS agency who is a young person who is clearly in need of specialized treatment and assistance due to her cognitive and behavioural problems.

For weeks, she’s been sitting in custody at the Manitoba Youth Centre despite everyone agreeing she could be released on bail.

The problem, as I came to see it: nobody appears able to figure out whose problem she is.

There were few answers to this today, even with two CFS workers subpoenaed to be there in hopes of getting to the bottom of the issue.

Ultimately, they weren’t asked to utter a word.

Here’s what’s happening.

In December, she was placed on a probation order by Judge Mary Kate Harvie.

One of the conditions of that order — and this is key — was that she “reside as directed by the provincial director [of youth corrections]” but specifically states she is not to be placed in an emergency CFS placement hotel room.

Remember this. It’s key to what’s coming below.

She’s released, but breaches by the end of January and is brought back into custody at the Manitoba Youth Centre. A bail conference is held and a placement for her is ‘arranged’ at a specialized group home. That placement fails to materialize and it may never.

Because there’s no placement there, she’s still being held in a jail, in my view, illegally and unethically.

Her case — and the one immediately prior where another lawyer was requesting a subpoena for CFS workers who were utterly unresponsive to calls for information about her juvenile client — set Judge Marvin Garfinkel off on one of his famous rants.

Unfortunately, much of it was directed at the girl’s defence lawyer. While I don’t necessarily agree with his approach, Garfinkel — a stickler as a youth court judge when it comes to following the legislation [gasp!] — had a lot of interesting things to say.

Garfinkel himself authorized her release with consent of the Crown on March 15. But she’s still there, in a jail. CFS, it appears, is unable to find another place for her for an unknown reason.

And the provincial director of youth corrections? Nobody in court even seems to know who that is, exactly.

Here’s the lengthy discussion which took place today, mostly verbatim where appropriate.

Garfinkel, to defence lawyer: What have you done to get the agency to find a placement?

[There’s then some discussion of whether the Children’s Advocate’s office is involved. It is. She’s been appointed an advocate, who wasn’t in court today to, you know, advocate, for her. ]

Garfinkel, to lawyer: Why not make a motion to compel the agency to do what it’s supposed to do [in the Court of Queen’s Bench]? “The agency is supposed to step in when when children are in need of protection. The agency has a responsibility to provide a place of appropriate shelter … Judge Harvie has mandated that a hotel is not an appropriate shelter … so consequently, somebody has to find her a proper place.”

Then Garfinkel’s attention turns from CFS to the mysterious “provincial director” as named in the probation order, and we start to get down to what may be the real issue.

“Why isn’t the provincial director finding a placement? You mean in the whole province of Manitoba there isn’t one proper placement that would be willing to accept this child? I’m not going to believe that.”

Lawyer: I have difficulty believing that as well.

Garfinkel: Then do something.

The judge then spoke of how with the advent of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, it forbid jails from becoming warehouses for kids due to CFS-related concerns.

Garfinkel: “This detention facility is not longer a place of shelter for child-welfare recipients … It used to be called the Child Welfare Act and agencies had to look after the welfare of young people — as it was determined that putting young people in this detention facility — which is designed for young offenders — is not appropriate for young people in need of care and treatment. So they go someplace else.”

It’s not good, Garfinkel said, to have criminals mingled with kids simply in need of care.

They pick up certain skills and habits and mindsets that young people shouldn’t have.

Then it appears the judge realizes he’s coming close to falling into a trap he should avoid for a host of sound reasons: that is, he’s becoming the de facto advocate for the girl. His voice booms.

“I’m not advocating for this young person. What I’m trying to do is stimulate counsel to be adversarial. Don’t sit back and tell me the problem. I can’t solve it today. But you can take steps to try and get a solution.

I’m yelling. I apologize. I allowed my emotions to get involved. I’m going to take a breath and speak lower …

What you have to do [defence lawyer] is take steps. You, defence counsel for this young person, have to take steps.

You make motions, you write the Children’s Advocate — is the agency [Island Lake CFS] — governed by the Northern Authority or the Southern Authority? (It’s the northern) … then get them involved. The Northern Authority is supposed to supervise individual agencies.

Look. The Child and Family Services are under a microscope right not as a result of the Sinclair inquiry. They don’t need nor do they want any bad publicity.

You file a motion in the appropriate court — the newspapers check for the list of the filings every day. 

[Not necessarily true for child-protection or youth matters as we have limited access but…]

The agency will get moving. But the agency — as I understand what you told me — doesn’t have control of this matter. What you told me is that the probation order says that she is to reside as directed by the provincial director. The provincial director has control.

Lawyer: I think strictly speaking, that is correct but I would suggest … pragmatically the provincial director takes their lead from the agency’s suggestion.

Garfinkel: I don’t accept that. Look at what Parliament did in the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Compare it to the old Young Offender’s Act and the even older Juvenile Delinquent’s Act — Parliament completely differentiated the criminal from the civil and child protection. At one time they were all mixed together. They didn’t know what it was.

That’s no longer the case. When Parliament says the provincial director — who is a criminal justice official — has a role to play in the placement of this child, that supersedes the guardian responsibility of an agency.

It has to. For the limited time that the criminal justice system has control over this young person’s life. You have to get the actors acting. What do you want me to do today?

Lawyer: We have no placement for [her]

Garfinkel: That’s not acceptable. The Crown is not showing cause for detention except to the extent that she has a residence.

Lawyer: A bail conference was called and suggestions made for her placement. We could call another, but “at this point, the agency has provided no options except …”

Garfinkel: Based on the information you’ve provided me, it’s not up to CFS to provide a placement. Do you want me to ignore Judge Harvie’s order?

Lawyer: No.

Garfinkel: I’m not going to reverse it or change it … so then comply with it. If we were talking in a back room, I wouldn’t use polite language. The provincial director has to get up off his chair, or her chair and find a placement. You can’t ignore Judge Harvie’s order. How can you do that?

Lawyer: It’s not an effort to ignore Judge Harvie’s order …

Garfinkel: Well then, why isn’t the provincial director providing a placement? There has to be a placement. If not, make a motion in the appropriate tribunal. It’s adversarial.

Lawyer: Of course.

Garfinkel: Is the Crown taking a position on this?

[An audible deep sigh is heard in the court — it’s unclear if this emerged from the Crown.]

Garfinkel: As I understand it, the Crown is consenting to release provided there’s an appropriate placement.

Crown attorney: That is our — yes.

Garfinkel: So I would have thought an appropriate placement would have been found the day after Judge Harvie made the order. Who disobeys a court order?

Lawyer: She hasn’t been in custody that long, Your Honour.

Garfinkel: I don’t care.

Lawyer: She has been in custody for longer than I would think is appropriate, but she hasn’t been in custody since the day that the order was put in place. She was released initially.

Garfinkel: [Mr. Lawyer,] I have to tell you, I’m very naive. When I was practising law, when a judge gave an order  – I don’t care if it was from the provincial court, the Court of Queen’s Bench or the Court of Appeal — if a judge made an order, we busted our backs — If I was talking to you privately, I might use different words — but we would bust our backs to comply with that order.

Now, the provincial director works with the criminal justice system. How can the provincial director ignore Judge Harvie’s order?

Did the provincial director make a motion on his or her own behalf to say, ‘Hey, we can’t comply with this order, Judge Harvie, please change it. Is there any such motion?

Lawyer: No.

Garfinkel: So get the provincial director to do his or her job. Why are these two people [the subpoenaed CFS workers] sitting in court? You want me to yell at them?

Lawyer: No. I’m not suggesting that.

Garfinkel: Good. Because I’m not going to. I’m yelling at you.

[The discussion continues along the same vein for a bit…]

Garfinkel: Who is the provincial director? That person should be in the courtroom. Why isn’t that person — I’m not using the word contempt – but I’m (still wondering) why isn’t’ the order being complied with. What’s the answer?

Lawyer: I don’t know.

Garfinkel: Well you should know. Do you know who the provincial director is?

Lawyer: I do not.

Garfinkel: Why not? Isn’t that — I have to say I’m a little bit frustrated inside. Just before, we dealt with another case where it seems things aren’t going smoothly. But it’s adversarial. You’ve got to fight.

Lawyer: I appreciate that.

Garfinkel: [Remands the case for one day.] We’ll see what happens then. Thank you. And thank you for the opportunity to vent.

—-

So, what can we take away from the above?

Reflecting on it, I see Garfinkel wasn’t haranguing the lawyer per se, but imparting wisdom: Fight. Advocate. Even embarrass the powers that be, if necessary, into doing something.

The lawyer — who I’ve seen take on a number of tough cases for clients and duke them out in court in the recent past — may be newer to the profession, but he’s anything but lazy.

But from my perspective — that of a concerned member of the lowly public, there’s so much more to this exchange.

You can take away from it what you will.

But how is it at all right in any way that this one officer of the court has to go to such lengths to force powerful government agencies into upholding the law and doing what’s ordered of them in the first place?

At the end of the day, it was he, the defence lawyer, present in court, accompanied by two child-protection workers there under force of a subpoena, in hopes of seeing some action on the case.

The provincial director of youth corrections, whomever that may be (curious how nobody knows), or his or her agent, certainly wasn’t.

And the girl? Just a factor, a sad variable in a massive machine which, to her, likely seems more like a system of hot potato then one of actual justice.

CFS can’t act because it’s the provincial director’s problem to act on, but many are under the impression that his/her office takes its lead from CFS.

And in the end, it falls to the courts to sort out the mess, but judicial orders get countermanded or ignored and nobody cares.

And we wonder why kids wind up returning time and again to youth jails, and then adult prisons?

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‘I am not happy’ — a veteran Judge reflects on the state of courtroom 308

(Winnipeg Law Courts/Winnipeg Sun File)
(Winnipeg Law Courts/Winnipeg Sun File)

Are lawyers disrespecting Manitoba’s provincial court?

It’s a question posed today by a frustrated veteran judge, Marvin Garfinkel (appointed in December 1979) as he juggled cases in Courtroom 308 at the law courts complex downtown.

Room 308 is designated as a sentencing or plea-entry court to deal with “summary conviction” criminal matters — matters which aren’t generally complex or overly serious.

It also handles items like motions and bail variations and people who are unrepresented and want to get their cases over with.

It sits each morning and afternoon of the working week except Fridays.

It’s a busy, but smaller room, one that’s hard for the public to find a seat in. It is generally standing-room-only for lawyers from both sides of the Crown-defence divide.

Matters are slotted onto a list and estimates for how long they may take to hear are provided. But, as is often said, the wheels of justice turn slowly — things often take longer to be heard then expected. Questions needing answers arise. Bringing in-custosy accused people into the room from lockup takes time.

In the glacial-paced world which is already Manitoba court system, 15 minutes turns into 30 real quick. And in my view, that’s probably for the best. Rushed, drive-through justice is probably not much better or helpful to society than no justice at all.

Lately, however, the dockets in 308 have been plagued by last-minute add ons and transfers from other courtrooms.

What was once meant as a courtroom to hear motions morphed into a well-intentioned experiment in “summary” dispositions to reduce court backlog — and the demand is now clearly outpacing resources.

Garfinkel today was clearly nonplussed at the state of today’s 308, and refused to hear a couple of cases because they were either not on the official list nor expected to appear that day.

Several times in the afternoon, he made comments about the length of time cases went over the estimated time of hearing as advanced by the lawyers involved.

And, probably rightly, he wondered if similar situations would unfold in the Court of Appeal or Court of Queen’s Bench, the higher levels of court in the province — but due the same respect any court of law requires.

The answer – I think he knew this — is, of course, it wouldn’t be allowed in QB and the appeals court.

This isn’t to say I believe the lawyers are intentionally being disrespectful, but there’s an amount of ‘wiggle room’ at the provincial court level which clearly is being exploited.

Here’s Garfinkel’s own words on the subject, for the record.

“I’m not dealing with this matter,” he told one younger defence lawyer.

“This matter is not on the list and I’m not going to deal with it. It’s not part of this court hearing this afternoon. And I’m glad you raised this now because it gives me the opportunity to vent.

The provincial court is the only court that does not control the length of its docket. I don’t know how this list [shakes it] got to be generated but certainly the judges and the staff of the court did not prepare that list.

If you go into the Court of Appeal on a sentence appeal, there are only four sentence appeals allowed in a half-day. The Court of Appeal staff controls its list and docket.

The provincial court is treated by counsel differently than it treats the Court of Appeal and the Court of Queen’s Bench. And counsel add matters that the court has no control over. We are not dealing with [accused] today – because he’s not on the list.

And I will also add that many of these items on the list have times shown — those times are estimates by counsel of how long the matter will take. As just shown from the first matter we dealt with [Set for 15 mins, but lasted 32] Counsel are frequently wrong in their time estimate.

This court came into being because the judges wanted to deal with motions by counsel. We as judges found that we weren’t getting motions from counsel. Counsel preferred to deal with motions in a different fashion.

So we said, ‘OK — we’ll take un-represented matters from 301 and 302,’ and we found that that didn’t work. And so we said, OK — counsel could put matters into the court. But we never put a cap on it, thinking that counsel would be intelligent enough to know how manny matters can be dealt with in a half day.

In the Court of Appeal, the example given is four matters in a half day, not taking into account transfers from 301 and 302.

I’m not dealing with this matter because it’s not on the list. I don’t know how it got added to the docket. You can put it to whatever courtroom that you like — but I’m not dealing with it today for the reasons stated.

We still have I don’t know how many matters to go — and I’ll venture to guess none of the time limits shown will be followed.”

FAST FORWARD TO A LITTLE LATER IN THE DAY:

(Garfinkel sounded like he was pre-explosion after the final matter came on the docket and his lawyer wasn’t in the room to handle it:)

“How do you have a lawyer put something on a list and then not show up? Would [the lawyer] do that in the Court of Appeal? Would he do that in the Court of Queen’s Bench? Then why do it in the provincial court? Are counsel treating the Court of Appeal differently than it treats provincial court of Manitoba and if so, why?

Just because we’re the lowest court on the hierarchy doesn’t mean we should be treated with disdain. I’m not being critical of you [he tells the Crown] but I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to vent. Why are we doing this?”

[Get a message to the other lawyer, he tells the Crown, and let him know his client is here.]

“I am not happy,” Garfinkel said.

The  duty Crown in attendance tried to explain how the estimations are arrived at, that often they add minutes to the estimates to try and account for extra time just in case it’s needed.

“You can convey the message to the lawyers in your department. That I am not happy with this whole system in 308. It’s not working the way the judges want it to work and we … as the judges are going to have to sit down and talk about it. And we will.

“And if you want to get in some points of view and opinions, you better tell your supervisor to get that information into the chief judge quickly.”

“Yes your honour,” the Crown replies.

A meeting of provincial court judges is coming up in May, Garfinkel says.

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“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.