Impaired driving charges dropped because police destroyed crucial evidence.

A Regina Saskatchewan judge ordered a stay of proceedings against a man who was facing impaired driving charges.

Why?

Because the RCMP destroyed evidence, and that deprived the accused of the opportunity to make full answer and defence to the charges.

I spoke with Regina impaired driving lawyer Chris Macleod, who was the lawyer for the defendant, Mr. Banford. Here’s what Chris had to say:

“In the Banford I’d made a timely request for full disclosure including video recordings of my client. The disclosure package I received did not include a copy of the video recording taken of my client at the RCMP detachment. This evidence is often crucial to determine what signs of impairment, if any, an accused displayed while under arrest, whether the breath test was properly conducted and whether the accused was accorded their rights under the Carter of Rights and Freedoms. I made additional requests for full disclosure, but the video evidence was never provided. I discovered that it had been destroyed, not by mistake or error, but by the RCMP recording system, which systematically destroys digital recordings after a period of 60 days. I argued that this denied my client the opportunity to make full answer and defence to the charges he was facing. The court agreed, and ordered that the charges could not proceed against my client (the charges were “stayed”).”

Here is an excerpt of what the court stated:

[56] “Police detachments, including the Lumsden Detachment, appear to be pursuing a policy of routine destructions of highly probative evidence. It does not matter that the police are not destroying evidence with the purpose of avoiding disclosure. The police are carrying out a policy that is insensitive to their disclosure obligations and to the needs of the justice system. This policy has gone unexplained, and it is all the more inexplicable given the advances in technology to which I have referred. I can only conclude that the police do not understand their obligations to preserve and disclose evidence. In these circumstances, and remedy short of a stay of proceedings would be inappropriate.”

Criminal law is technical. When proper procedures aren’t followed, as in this case, it can results in charges against a person being stayed or withdrawn. This case demonstrates why anyone facing an impaired driving charge, or any other criminal charge, should seek legal advise from a criminal defence lawyer.

For those of you who are interested, I’ve attached a copy of R v Banford 2010.

In your opinion, what should happen in cases like this?

R v Banford 2010

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