New trial ordered for man accused of drunk driving and killing dog

The case against Jeffrey Lepage had been tossed out of Campbell River provincial court due to “unreasonable” delays

The B.C. Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a man accused of impaired driving, narrowly missing a child on a bicycle and then running over, and killing, a family dog.

The case against Jeffrey Lepage had been tossed out of Campbell River provincial court due to “unreasonable” delays, but last Thursday, Justice Jennifer Power overturned the ruling and ordered a new trial.

It was the second case in a month where a North Island motorist, accused of impaired driving, has been ordered back to trial following successful “delay applications” under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In June, the BC Supreme Court ordered a new trial for Albert Turner who is accused of driving while impaired in Port Hardy in April 2010.

In both cases, lawyers for the two accused men had successfully argued for stays of proceedings against their clients due to ongoing delays which violated their rights or caused prejudice against them.

As well, in both cases, the judge blamed institutional delays and a lack of human resources among his reasons for staying the charges.

“…the government has made a decision…it has simply decided not to provide adequate funding,” said Judge Brian Saunderson in his decision in the Turner case.

As for Lepage, he’s accused of impaired driving in Campbell River on July 19, 2009.

“The facts of the allegations include narrowly missing a child on a bike and running over the family dog as it was being walked on the side of the road by the owner. The dog died as a result of the incident,” wrote Justice Power in her decision to order a new trial.

Lepage was formally charged on Sept. 30, 2009, with the trial starting on June 8, 2011. In between that time, there were several delays due to a lack of court time as well as Crown and defence adjournments.

As well, the case was originally slated for trial on July 2, 2010, but Lepage failed to show up after he marked down the wrong court date on his calendar.

When the trial finally began in June 2011, it was supposed to take just one day, but due to other court matters, the trial never finished. It was supposed to continue on Aug. 4, 2011, but again, the court day came to an end before the trial concluded.

That led to the successful delay application in which the judge noted, “Rare is the day when all cases set for a particular date are completed. (Campbell River) court is over-booked. We cannot handle trials in a timely manner.”

In overruling the decision, Justice Power said the judge failed to take into account all the factors resulting in the ongoing delays. She also found that Lepage did not face prejudice due to lost income for court appearances as well as legal expenses.

However, as in the Turner case, the supreme court judge did back-up the provincial court judge’s comments in regard to a lack of human resources in the court system.

“It is clear from his reasons that the trial judge is very concerned about the limits on the institutional resources in Campbell River. Those concerns are very well founded as outlined in his reasons,” wrote Justice Power.

There’s no word yet on a new trial date.