Focus On

Transportation Law - Motor vehicles and highway traffic - Liability - Provincial or regulatory offences

Thursday, February 09, 2017 @ 7:00 PM  

Appeal by the Regional Municipality of York from an Ontario Court of Justice decision allowing the appeals of the respondents, Wadood and Davis, from their convictions for traffic offences. In separate incidents, Wadood was charged with an unsafe turn contrary to s. 142(1) of the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) and Davis was charged with speeding contrary to s. 128 of the HTA. In Wadood’s case, the certificate of offence was incomplete, as it did not contain the municipality where the alleged offence occurred. Consequently, the officer added “City of Vaughan” to the certificate prior to filing it with the court. In Davis’s case, the officer subsequently realized the certificate of offence listed the incorrect year, 2012 rather than 2013. Consequently, the officer inserted the correct year prior to filing the certificate with the court. Wadood and Davis each requested a trial, but neither appeared on the scheduled date. By operation of s. 9.1 of the Provincial Offences Act (POA), they were deemed not to have disputed the charges. Under s. 9.1, the presiding Justice was directed to enter a conviction where the certificate of offence was complete and regular on its face. The Justice in each case entered a conviction. Wadood and Davis appealed on the basis the officers lacked statutory authority to make changes to the certificates after they were served, and prior to filing with the court. The Ontario Court of Justice allowed their appeals and entered acquittals on the basis the changes to the certificates were made without authority. The Municipality obtained leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

HELD: Appeal allowed. Although s. 90 of the POA did not authorize an officer to amend the certificate after serving the offence notice, but before filing the certificate with the court, nothing in the POA prevented an officer from doing so. Nothing in the Act or the Rules required the information on a certificate of offence to be identical to the information on the offence notice prior to its filing with the court. Whether an amendment invalidated a conviction depended on the nature of the amendment and its impact on a defendant. Quashing certificates of offence due to minor errors that caused no prejudice would not promote the fair administration of justice. Here, each amendment corrected a minor clerical error on the certificate. Neither Wadood nor Davis was misled or prejudiced by the respective amendments. Therefore, the validity of the proceeding against each of them was preserved by operation of s. 90 of the POA. Both convictions were accordingly restored.