Judge orders community service; case delayed by lack of thorough police investigation
Patrice Leanne Frederick was ordered to complete 240 hours of community service for the offense of careless driving for hitting a pedestrian while driving on the East-West Arterial Highway on Jan. 6, 2011.
Justice Charles Quin said in Grand Court last week that the case could have been disposed of two years earlier if the police had given more careful attention to phone evidence.
In his summary of the facts, Justice Quin said the woman who was injured, Annette Diane Andrade, was walking with a companion against the flow of traffic, but around 6 p.m. they crossed the road and walked toward Hirst Road, this time with their backs to traffic. They were on the cycle/unmarked pedestrian lane with Ms. Andrade on the outside, closest to traffic. She was wearing black clothes with luminous stripes.
Suddenly her companion heard a loud bang and then saw Ms. Andrade in the air and a white vehicle on the side of the road. Logs from 911 showed that the incident was reported at 6:08 p.m., medics were dispatched at 6:09 p.m. and the first police officers arrived at 6:18 p.m.
Frederick was standing by the roadside and told officers she had not seen anyone until she heard the bang. She was given a roadside breath test, which was negative.
In March 2012, Frederick was charged with dangerous driving. Defense attorney Ben Tonner said Frederick was prepared to plead guilty to careless driving, but this was rejected by the Crown in 2012 and again in January this year.
Justice Quin noted that it was initially assumed the accident was caused because Frederick was using her cellphone at the time her car hit Ms. Andrade.
“However, if the RCIPS investigating officers had conducted a thorough investigation of the times of the 911 calls and compared them to the times of the text messages/phone calls on the defendant’s mobile phone, they would have realized immediately that the defendant was not using her phone at the time of the collision.
“Consequently, the defendant could have been charged with careless driving rather than dangerous driving, and this case could have been disposed of two years earlier…. I understand that it was only after Crown counsel Toyin Salako took over the conduct of this case this summer that this vital telephone evidence was carefully examined,” the judge said.
Ms. Salako reviewed the times of the calls on Frederick’s phone and was able to establish that the defendant was not driving and texting or calling at the time her car hit Ms. Andrade. The Crown subsequently advised that a guilty plea to careless driving was acceptable.
Justice Quin pointed out that in previous cases he has highlighted the importance of the investigating officers liaising closely with the Crown counsel conducting the case. Police officers have many difficult tasks, he acknowledged: “However, this delay could have been avoided if the investigating officers and the Crown counsel with conduct of the case had given more careful and consistent attention to the important telephone evidence in the investigation and preparation of this case against the defendant.”
Mr. Tonner and Ms. Salako agreed that the only aggravating factor in this case was the serious injuries sustained by the victim. Justice Quin described them as life threatening. They included a cracked skull, fractured clavicle and scapula, fractured ribs and wrist, large laceration to the skull, forehead and left arm, and road rash on the entire left side of her body and right leg.
Frederick said she did not see the women before the collision. “I accept that I failed to pay sufficient attention to the roadway in front of me….My mind may have been distracted by something, but I can only speculate what that distraction may have been.”
Mr. Tonner said Frederick was totally remorseful and accepted full responsibility for the accident and for Ms. Andrade’s injuries. There was no evidence of speeding or alcohol or drugs. Settlement of the victim’s medical expenses was being made through Frederick’s insurance company, he noted. Finally, Frederick had a clean driving record and no previous convictions.
Justice Quin said it was easy to be wise after the event, but perhaps the accident could have been avoided if there had been a raised footpath.
“The court can take notice of the fact that in recent years there has been a significant increase in careless and dangerous driving accidents, causing serious injuries to pedestrians, runners and cyclists,” he said. “It is absolutely imperative that motorists ensure that cyclists, runners and, in this case, pedestrians, can use the road in the sure knowledge they will be safe.”
In addition to the community service order, Frederick was disqualified from driving for six months.