New drinking driving law unfair, judge rules

An Abbotsford resident who says she was injured by an “aggressive” Langley officer during a drinking driving check stop wins court victory

Kristen Debra-Lee Spencer

Kristen Debra-Lee Spencer

An Abbotsford resident who says she was injured by an “aggressive” Langley RCMP officer during a drinking driving check stop has won a victory in B.C. Supreme Court.

In a written decision, Justice T. Mark McEwan ruled that the new law that expands the police power to suspend a driver’s licence on the spot for suspected drinking was unfairly applied to Kristen Debra-Lee Spencer after she was pulled over by a Langley RCMP officer on Oct. 31, 2010 in the 24100 block of Fraser Highway.

Spencer’s driving licence was seized and she was issued a 90-day suspension by Langley RCMP Const. Veronica Steiger for refusing to blow into a breath alcohol testing device.

Spencer filed a challenge of the suspension with the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, saying she never refused to blow, never told the officer she’d been drinking and could prove that she wasn’t consuming alcohol that evening.

Her appeal was dismissed by an unnamed adjudicator who issued a written ruling Justice McEwan said was “..fundamentally at odds with basic concepts of fairness and impartiality.”

The adjudicator simply rejected Spencer’s evidence, including a doctor’s letter that she still suffers the after effects from a serious head injury that can make  her appear confused when she is under stress.

The adjudicator simply accepted officer Steiger’s claims as fact, the judge said, without subjecting them to the same level of scrutiny applied to Spencer.

In the judgment, the adjudicator wrote “there is no reason for [Const.] Steiger to provide inaccurate evidence on this point whereas you have a vested interest in the outcome of this review.”

“That is a flat statement of bias,” Justice McEwan said.

The judge ordered the case re-heard by a different adjudicator who will not grant the police what McEwan described as a “credibility advantage” over an ordinary citizen.

The judge said the case raises serious questions about the fairness of the process, noting a person challenging a speeding ticket has a right to a hearing before a trained justice of the peace, while someone charged with the more serious offence of impaired driving does not.

“The compelling social objective of removing drinking drivers from the road cannot justify a process that is incapable of reliably differentiating between those who have and those who have not offended,” the judge said.

Spencer has also sued the Langley Mountie and the provincial Solicitor General, saying Const. Steiger didn’t explain why she was being pulled over, simply produced the device and ordered her to blow.

In her statement of claim, Spencer says an “aggressive” Steiger did not tell her failing to immediately blow would be considered a refusal.

When Spencer asked for an explanation, she said she was then told about the rule.

When Spencer then offered to take the breath test, she says Steiger refused, telling her “that option is off the table.”

The statement of claim, filed in Surrey Provincial Court, contains unproven allegations.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for injuries allegedly suffered when Steiger cuffed Spencer and put her in the police cruiser, including a fractured bone in one hand, bruising, shoulder and neck injuries, and a broken tooth as well as “emotional and mental trauma.”

Just Posted

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Abbotsford council has given permission for Chilliwack to use the JAMES wastewater treatment plant for the disposal of trucked liquid waste until the end of September.
Chilliwack gets exemption to Abbotsford bylaw prohibiting liquid waste from other cities

Process in place until September while new facility under construction in Chilliwack

There were a total of 182 deaths of trumpeter swans at Judson Lake over the past winter, according to the Save the Swans website. The lake has the heaviest lead concentration of any known lake, the website states. (PHOTO: savetheswans.ca)
Abbotsford man starts petition, saying lead shot is killing waterfowl in Judson Lake and beyond

Farmer Kevin Sinclair says local lake is ‘poster child’ for swans’ deaths from lead poisoning

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

A search is underway for a 75-year-old fisherman who went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search continues for angler missing between Port Angeles and Victoria

Canadian, U.S. Coast Guard searching for 75-year-old man reported missing Thursday evening

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read