Citing sloppy policework by an Agassiz RCMP officer, Supreme Court Justice Neill Brown has quashed a 90-day driving ban handed down to a man suspected of drinking and driving last year. Norman John Longstaff was stopped last May while driving in Harrison Hot Springs. An Agassiz RCMP officer, identified only as Const. Paterson in a Supreme Court judgement, would later provide a sworn report that Longstaff failed a breathalyzer. Paterson reported that two samples of Longstaff's breath revealed a blood alcohol content of .140 and .130.
Longstaff was handed a 90-day administrative driving prohibition by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, but appealed the ban. Brown heard that prior to the adjudicator's review, an urgent request was sent to Paterson asking either for a "certificate of analysis" by the technician who took Longstaff's breath sample or a reason for its absence.
Paterson didn't respond. Still, the prohibition was upheld by an adjudicator.
Longstaff took the decision to the Supreme Court of British Columbia, where he argued the adjudicator had erred by ruling that the officer's sworn statement was reliable despite the lack of a certificate or an explanation for its absence.
Longstaff's lawyer also pointed out that Paterson reported in his statement that he had stopped his client at 7:36 p.m., but observed Longstaff driving at 7:37 p.m. Longstaff's lawyer said the known errors called into question the reliability of the report.
Justice Neill Brown threw out the prohibition, and declined to give the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles another opportunity to punish Longstaff. In doing so, he put the blame on Paterson.
"In light of [Const.] Paterson's complete failure to comply with his prescribed duties, his failure to respond to the Superintendent's request he provide the certificate, and the report's obvious deficiencies, I see no likelihood the review process could be conducted as required," Brown wrote in his report.
Longstaff also faces criminal charges in connection with the incident. He was scheduled to appear in court Thursday.
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