The changes recently announced by the province regarding the virtual elimination of the traffic court system are not sitting well with many. I get it.
The province wants to ease the burden on an already strained court system, and sure, removing traffic cases could be be one way to remove that strain.
My question is, whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?
While the official changes have not been announced, and law enforcement has yet to begin training on the changes set to take place in the beginning of February, what has been announced indicates that in cases of a provincially issued citation it will be emailed to you and your option will be to pay it, or pay to fight it.
Pay? To? Fight? It?
In lieu of traffic court, the province is introducing a $50 to $150, depending on the amount of the citation, non-refundable fee to have the case brought before an adjudicator who will have less power to make changes to the fine than the traffic court once did.
There will be less ability to request a reduced penalty.
And if one chooses to fight the citation, and loses — which seems the more likely scenario based on everything I have read so far — you have effectively increased your penalty by the amount of the adjudication fee.
Another impending change affecting traffic citations, and outraging many people, is that someone previously issued a citation had weeks to decide whether or not to fight it in court; now that is set to be changed to just seven days.
The province is touting these changes as being the next step in their “Justice Transformation Initiative,” and the plan is, if the roll out goes smoothly for traffic related infractions, to transition this system to all provincially issued citations down the road, including Fish and Wildlife.
The approach this government is taking on this matter has a couple of glaring issues.
First, it reeks of being nothing more than a cash grab.
Sure, people do break the law, and they do get caught. When they do, they should be penalized for it.
However, our entire system is set up on being able to fight the charges in a court of law. Whether or not that battle is or should be successful is another question entirely, and a matter for a different column.
Removing the ability to have that fight, and instead forcing someone already charged to pay further to have it set before an adjudicator with less power than a court to make changes … it makes no sense, but it makes money for the province.
Second, I was always raised in the belief that in Canada someone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Even looking at a speeding ticket, the amount the officer writes in is the voluntary payment option, where one voluntarily acknowledges their guilt of the offence, and pays the fine.
Would the outcome be different if the person waited until the court date and stood before a judge?
In the majority of cases, no. However, in the rare circumstances I have found myself in traffic court — please don’t judge a misspent youth — I was usually able to calmly and rationally talk my way out of losing points on the licence, while still paying the fine.
Under the new system, it is not known whether this will still be possible.
Regardless, people charged under the new system will not be having their day in court.
Under the new system, you will get the ticket, have a week to decide to fight it, then either have to pay it, or pay the adjudication fee. Either way you’re paying.
That does not strike me as a fair and just system.
I get what the province is trying trying to do.
However, like everything else this government has touched, I just really can’t get behind the way they are going about it.