Friday, March 21, 2014

Not wearing seatbelt strict liability offence

R. v. Wilson, 2014 ONCA 212 holds not wearing a seatbelt is a strict liability offence:


[33]       Holding s. 106(2) to be an offence of strict liability comports with the wisdom of Sault Ste. Marie by enabling efficient and effective enforcement of important public safety legislation while avoiding the injustice of no-fault liability. The prosecution need only prove that the driver was not wearing a seat belt. As this court stated in Kanda, at para. 31, "[s]trict liability is what its name implies – a serious commitment to enforcement of the law." But in the admittedly rare case where the driver has done his or her best to comply, the injustice of conviction without fault is avoided.

[34]       I wish to emphasize that because of the way this case came to us, we are not asked to decide whether Mr. Wilson's evidence at trial made out a due diligence defence. It is common ground that as he was precluded from advancing that argument before the Justice of the Peace at trial, if the Justice of the Peace was wrong in concluding that the offence was one of absolute liability, a new trial would be required. A defence of due diligence to this charge would only be made out where, although the driver was found not wearing his or her seat belt when driving, the driver had taken all reasonable care to wear the seat belt. As Doherty J.A. stated in Raham, at para. 48, citing Kurtzman at para. 37, "a due diligence defence is not made out by acting generally in a reasonable way".

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