The number of photo radar tickets that have been issued has dramatically plunged over the past couple of months following two decisions that called into question the rules around the province’s use of the automated speed and red-light enforcement technology.
According to figures compiled by the Quebec transport ministry that the French-language tabloid Le Journal de Québec obtained through access-to-information requests, only 309 photo radar tickets were issued in May 2017 compared to 41,721 in November 2016. Government coffers have borne the brunt: In November 2016 the provincial government was able to recoup $5.4 million compared to a meagre $95,000 in May 2017.
“It’s been quite a while since we have received requests to challenge photo radar tickets,” told me a Montreal lawyer working for a law firm that specializes in challenging tickets.
Two precedent-setting decisions that held that evidence from the current photo system is “inadmissible” and “illegal” at a time when Quebec is increasing the number of photo radar sites are to blame for the noteworthy decrease, added the Montreal lawyer.
In late November 2016 Court of Quebec Judge Serge Cimon held that the evidence in a photo radar fine was not admissible because it was based on hearsay evidence. Contrary to the Highway Safety Code, the police officer who issued the ticket did not check to see if there was a sign posting the speed limit in the area where the car was driving. The officer also could not say if the device was properly calibrated. Instead the officer relied on statements from other officers who made the checks, said Judge Cimon.
More significantly, Judge Cimon served “formal notice” to the Crown that the evidence used in the prosecution of fixed photo radar cases is based on “insufficient evidence,” and that in the future defendants can seek costs if the Crown “persists” to submit evidence “it knows is illegal.” The Crown did not appeal the case.
Another decision that largely went unnoticed may prove to be just as significant, if not more important, than the Cimon decision. Quebec Superior Justice Daniel Payette held in Audette c. Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales, 2016 QCCS 4706 that when tickets are issued under Article 359, the Crown must prove that the defendant himself was driving the vehicle. The Crown in this case did lodge a motion to appeal before the Quebec Court of Appeal.
“These two decisions have created a precedent that makes it easier to challenge photo radar tickets,” said the Montreal lawyer.
Those two decisions also spurred two separate motions seeking authorization for class action lawsuits against the Quebec government to have hundreds of thousands of speeding and red-light tickets issued with photo radar evidence thrown out or refunded.
Number of photo radar tickets from November 2016 to May 2017
- May 2017 – 309 tickets = $95,270 (total amount of fines)
- April 2017 – 274 tickets = $73,157
- March 2017 – 293 tickets = $66,063
- February 2017 – 1,973 tickets = $288,902
- January 2017 – 3,370 tickets = $494,336
- December 2016 – 8,311 tickets = $986,156
- November 2016 – 41,721 tickets = $5,390,260
(Source: Le Journal de Québec)