1. Yesterday afternoon I appeared with a riding buddy in North Vancouver traffic court to dispute allegations that we contravened section 146(3), ie. speeding against a posted highway sign. The alleged offence is said to have happened while we were riding together.
2. After completing my trial preparation (blistering cross-examinations of two officers, powerful closing submissions ), two days ago I received a telephone voicemail message from the main police officer advising that he was staying the charges, that he would try to contact the court by teleconference to advise his position, and that I need not appear at trial.
3. The officer called me yesterday morning before court and reiterated same. He was professional and courteous throughout, and I thanked him for calling but also advised that I would appear in court anyway in case for some reason he was unable to connect with the court (ie. maybe get called out on an emergency).
3. My understanding has always been that if no party shows up in traffic court (ie. police or accused), then the accused is automatically convicted although there is no evidence to be called by the police. Seems strange in a reverse onus sort of way, but I simply did not want to take the chance. The officer told me he thought I may be wrong, but whatever.
4. Anyhow my buddy and I showed up for trial (him doing zero preparation of course). No police showed up for our trials. I guess the officer could not make the link for whatever reason.
5. Here is what transpired in court:
- there were probably 30 or more matters on the list for disposition
- of those, 13 were cases in which no one showed up, police or accused
- the JP asked another officer in court, obviously unrelated to those 13 cases, what the Crown wanted to do about those matters, and the officer replied the Crown was proceeding (? on what basis I have no idea)
- the Justice of the Peace then deemed all 13 no-show accuseds convicted of their offences.
6. If my buddy and I had not showed up in court, there would have been 15 convicted names on the list instead of 13. We both pleaded not guilty and were acquitted.
7. The lesson I took from yesterday's events is this. Unless I receive a letter confirming a Crown stay of proceedings I will always show up in court to ensure the stay is properly entered in the record.
8. I believe the police officer who called me was sincere about the stay, but for whatever reason he did not contact the court and advise of his position. It might simply have been because I told him I was going to appear no matter what, who knows.
9. Oh yes, my question:
Q: Are you aware of the rule that -
- if both the police and accused fail to attend traffic court
- another police officer can stand in as agent for the absent officer
- and elect to proceed with the matter (but obviously not by trial)
- whereby the JP automatically deems the accused convicted?
because that is exactly what I observed happen yesterday.
Thanks in advance for your considered reply.