February 27, 2018
Dufresne, Levesque, Healy
Appeal of an acquittal. Dismissed.
The appellant appeals from a decision acquitting the respondent of failing to stop at a red light. The offence was recorded by an approved camera system. After the respondent received the statement of offence, he sent the form required to establish that his spouse was the driver. His form was rejected, however, because it was not received within the time limit and the necessary signatures were not compliant. He was then convicted by the Court of Quebec as the owner. The Superior Court set aside that decision, noting that the statement of offence had been sent to the respondent in his capacity as the driver at the time of the offence, even though he had not been driving his vehicle. The prosecution was bound by the description of the offence, which could not be changed by way of a mere legislative reference.
Under s. 592.1 of the Highway Safety Code (CQLR, c. C-24.2), when an alleged offence has been captured by a red light camera system, the owner of a road vehicle may be exonerated from statutory liability by establishing the identity of the actual driver at the time of the offence. To this effect, the owner need only send the Bureau des infractions et des amendes the required form duly completed by the owner and the driver, or by the owner alone if the driver refuses to sign. This legislative provision does not create a separate offence; it is instead an opportunity to rebut the presumption established in s. 592 of the Code. Hence, had the respondent sent a compliant form, he could have been acquitted of the alleged offence at the outset. He cannot therefore claim that he has suffered harm due to the wording of the statement of offence. Nonetheless, despite the deficiencies raised regarding the notice sent, the form had been signed by the actual driver. Therefore, the prosecution knew the identity of the person who was driving the vehicle at the time of the offence, and nothing prevented it from serving a new statement of offence on the driver. Contrary to what was established in Desmarais c. Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (C.A., 2012-03-15), 2012 QCCA 480, SOQUIJ AZ-50839752, 2012EXP-1216, J.E. 2012-664, the prosecution exhibited a degree of procedural strictness and formalism that are not justified in the circumstances of this case. The respondent’s acquittal should therefore be upheld.
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