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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wheel off wood chipper case sent back for new trial

Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) officers investigated a truck stopped along a highway.  Attached to the truck was a wood chipping machine that was missing its right wheel.  The hub of the wheel was located at the end of a scrape mark in the pavement, but the wheel was not found.  The wheel hub had the eight wheel-fastening bolts shorn from where the wheel should have been attached.

The truck belonged to a tree services company.  The MTO charged the company and the person that was present with the truck with offences under the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) - the company was charged with a "wheel-off" offence and the individual was charged with driving an unsafe vehicle.

The Justice of the Peace at trial acquitted both defendants, finding that the wood chipper was not a vehicle (an essential ingredient of each charge).  A wood chipper was being towed, but was not a "thing used for transporting people or goods on land".  The Crown appealed the decision, arguing that the JP erred in not taking a purposive or purpose-based approach to the interpretation of the charging provisions. 

On appeal, a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice agreed that the purposive approach is to be applied and results in a finding that the wood chipper was, in fact, a vehicle for the purposes of the HTA.  However, the judge also noted that there were other defences that could have possibly been raised by the defendants at trial, but that were not necessary for the trial judge to deal with (given the ruling on a wood chipper not being a vehicle).  Both charges were sent back for a new trial.

Read the decision at: Ontario (Ministry of Transportation) v. Tsapoitis.