The Cowichan Valley’s Dan Feehan wants his day in court to prove his innocence, but the authorities won’t let him appear on video.
Feehan was pulled over by the RCMP while travelling through the province’s interior last July and given a ticket for travelling too slow.
He said the officer from the Ashcroft RCMP detachment gave him a ticket for travelling 71 in a 100 km zone on the Trans Canada Highway while he was looking for a place to camp.
Feehan said the law stipulates that if you are not blocking traffic while travelling slow, it’s not an offence so he disputed the charge.
He said an officer from the Linton RCMP detachment looked at the case as part of the dispute process and did a GPS search of the site where he was pulled over and determined that it was actually a 70 km zone.
“It turns out I’m completely innocent, but I’ve been told that I have to appear in a Kamloops court room to defend myself or I will be found guilty anyway,” Feehan said.
“To appear there in person means that for gas, lodgings and days off of work to go to Kamloops, I will have to pay about $1,500 to plead not guilty to a $160 ticket. That’s ridiculous.”
Feehan said he appealed to the province’s Office of the Attorney General asking that he be allowed to appear at his trial by videoconferencing, but he was turned down.
“They don’t allow accused in traffic offences to appear by videoconferencing, and they must attend the court closest to where the alleged offence occurred in person, but actual criminals are allowed to videoconference at their court appearances,” he said.
“I believe it’s a scam in which authorities manufacture false convictions to enrich themselves.”
This is not Feehan’s first charge for driving too slowly in a jurisdiction he was visiting, nor his first time trying to fight the regulations around appearing in an out-of-town court.
In 2016, he was given a ticket for driving well below the speed limit in Grand Forks.
Feehan also wanted to plead not guilty to that charge by videoconferencing, but was told he had to appear in person in Grand Forks.
He was found guilty in absentia.
A statement from the Office of the Attorney General on the issue confirmed that in order to dispute a violation ticket, the accused is required to attend the court nearest where the alleged offence occurred.
The statement said that neither the Ministry of Justice nor the Attorney General has the authority to grant adjournments or alternative arrangements for these matters.
“The Judiciary has the sole authority to approve adjournments and requests for alternative arrangements,” it read.
“Judicial justices are judicial officers of the Provincial Court. Under our system of law, the judiciary function as a separate, independent body, from the executive and legislative branches of government.”
The Provincial Court of B.C.’s website makes no mention of attending a traffic court by videoconferencing.
The website said the accused must appear in person in court on the scheduled hearing date, which can be requested to be changed, or have an agent (family member or friend) or legal counsel appear on behalf of the accused.
“Keep in mind that an agent or legal counsel cannot give evidence on your behalf,” the website said.
“An agent or legal counsel can, however, enter a plea, cross-examine any Crown witness and make submissions on your behalf. If you (or your agent) don’t appear in court on the hearing date and do not file an affidavit, the full ticketed amount will become due and payable immediately.”