Retired officer argues Red Deer photo radar tickets violate rights

Time to serve tickets well beyond 21-day guideline

A retired cop who received two photo radar tickets in Red Deer well past provincial time guidelines is going to call on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when he heads to court next month.

The main issues for Red Deer County resident Jim Seward is the length of time it took to serve him the tickets, one of the tickets was in an area of construction when big trucks parked were by the 30-km signs, and the other was in a “fishing hole” or “cash cow” area.

Seward said Thursday that he received the tickets in the mail on Aug. 15 with the offence dates of June 8 and June 15. He said his experience as a police officer was that it takes no more than a couple of hours to prepare a ticket for service in the mail.

His investigation ran into an “endless list of excuses” including staff shortages, vacation time, sending film to Eastern Canada and back for processing, delays in it being viewed locally, the information then being sent to a contractor to prepare a ticket, and then putting it in the mail.

He asked for the tickets to be withdrawn soon after he received them. That didn’t happen. Now he will go to court and ask for them to be dismissed.

When he checked with the province about the length of time, he was told that the City of Red Deer automated traffic enforcement technology had not been audited in a long time. He said he was advised that “if complaints were received against the operators this might eventually speed up the potential for an audit or an early review, or at least make the Solicitor General’s office aware of the City of Red Deer’s inability to follow the guidelines.”

“Who uses film anymore?” The city has one digital photo radar unit. The other two use film.

Seward served 25 years with the RCMP, the last 12 as a member of the Innisfail Freeway Patrol. He believes that his rights are being violated because the Charter states that any person charged with an offence has the right to be informed without unreasonable delay and to be tried within a reasonable time. He said he learned that one of the more common photo radar complaints was the delay in being served.

Seward ran into city councillor Buck Buchanan, a former Mountie as well, at City Hall when he was looking into the the issue, and later sent the councillor a letter.

Part of that letter stated: “I do not think I am the only victim of what I believe in my own opinion to be a seriously flawed enforcement system that either needs to be dismissed or revamped by the city of Red Deer, as I believe it brings the system into disrepute.”

Buchanan said told the Advocate that he himself had recently fought a photo radar ticket earlier this year on the basis of the time of day, and where he was in the particular zone when the photo radar was taken. He did not win in court and has paid the ticket.

Buchanan asked city administration about Seward’s concerns. He said he is concerned about the turn-around of 60 days or more on some photo radar tickets.

While he supports the safety aspect of photo radar, he does not support photo radar. At the same time, he admits the revenue is important. For some years, photo radar revenue failed to meet budget projections. The city has recently adjusted that process so the numbers are more realistic.

“Am I advocating for photo radar? Absolutely not. I voted against it every single time it’s been on the table and I will continue to because I don’t think it’s having the effect that people want it to have.”

City of Red Deer of Legislative Services manager Frieda McDougall told Seward in an email on Thursday that the city earlier issued a Request for Proposal to obtain updated digital technology to replace film-based cameras.

Traffic offences are governed by the Provincial Offences Procedure Act that stipulates tickets can be issued up to six months after a provincial offence, McDougall said.

“The tickets issued to you were within the sites approved by the City of Red Deer, the RCMP and submitted to the Solicitor General as part of the normal procedure.”

McDougall also said that the city was informed by the province that all Automated Traffic Enforcement programs would be audited in the coming months. A provincial government representative told the city that tickets may be issued outside of the 21-day period if there is a “reasonable excuse” but under normal circumstances it should be within the 21-day guideline.

She said the city’s review verified the proper process was followed and told Seward he had the right to fight the tickets in court.

Seward’s trial is set for Red Deer provincial traffic court on Nov. 15.

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