Government says it’s doing all it can, but offenders with big, outstanding fines will always be out there
Bradley Wayne Benmore, who owes almost $50,000 in unpaid traffic fines, appeared in provincial court in St. John’s Monday. He’s one of several people who come through court facing driving violations and owing thousands. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
One by one, they were paraded through provincial court in St. John’s, having been arrested for accumulating huge amounts of traffic tickets.
Three men — Bradley Wayne Benmore, Harold Douglas Grace and Roger Kennedy — came before a judge for violating more Highway Traffic Act regulations.
Neither of them were supposed to be behind the wheel.
Together, they owe more than $110,000.
Benmore had the highest amount owing with almost $50,000, while Grace and Kennedy each owe more than $30,000.
It’s a growing problem in this province, with $29 million in outstanding traffic fines owed to the government.
“It’s certainly disconcerting to see every second day someone being caught with great amounts of fines,” Justice Minister Felix Collins told The Telegram Monday afternoon.
“But I can tell (you) that everything that can possibly be done (to try and control this), we’re doing.”
That includes, he said, bringing these people to court and seeing many of them incarcerated.
Three years ago, the government made changes to provincial legislation to give police authority to arrest violators and impound their vehicles, instead of just issuing more fines.
“But look at the cost of incarceration. What does it get you at the end of the day?” Collins asked.
“You can’t keep them there forever and when they get out, they’re back on the road. It’s a very difficult situation to deal with.”
Collecting these debts is not easy either.
Government collected $11 million is traffic fines last year — $1 million of that through arrangements with such groups as Canada Revenue Agency to garner tax refunds and GST rebates.
However, Collins admitted that doesn’t always work.
Many violators have no fixed addresses or record of employment.
“We’re talking people who are not concerned with rules or regulations,” he said.
“It’s irrelevant to them whether they owe $15 or $30,000.”
Most of the time, these people don’t have money to pay anyway.
“You can’t get blood from a turnip,” Collins said.
Fortunately, he said, it’s a small percentage of the population that makes up this group of people who owe a large amount of traffic fines.
“And a lot of them are repeat offenders, Collins said.
This certainly wasn’t Benmore’s first time in court facing traffic and criminal charges.
The 30-year-old was arrested Sunday evening after he reportedly broke into a house on Salmonier Line in Holyrood by smashing a window and allegedly stole two truck tires.
After he was taken into custody, RCMP officers discovered Benmore’s outstanding traffic fines.
He’s charged with break and enter, having break-in instruments (a pry bar, hammer, gloves and flashlight), theft under $5,000, possessing stolen property, mischief by damaging property, breaching probation and driving while disqualified.
The Crown agreed to release Benmore. He’s due back in court April 5.
Benmore reportedly committed the offences shortly after he was released from Her Majesty’s Penitentiary, where he’s serving a 60-day intermittent sentence on weekends.
He was given that sentence in January after pleading guilty to stealing a van, which was used in an armed robbery in May 2010.
Benmore and Travis Wade were charged in connection with an armed robbery, but Benmore was acquitted on the robbery charge.
Meanwhile, Grace was arrested Sunday morning after he reportedly hit a parked car on Cornwall Avenue.
A subsequent investigation revealed the 25-year-old was on a number of court orders, including one not to drive, along with numerous unpaid traffic fines.
Following his court appearance Monday, he was remanded into custody. He’s scheduled to return to court Wednesday.
As for Kennedy, he dealt with his driving offences and traffic tickets Monday by pleading guilty to several charges, including breaches of court orders.
He was sentenced to 144 days in jail and two years’ probation.
“Driving is not a right,” Judge Greg Brown said in sentencing.
“It’s a privilege.”
The above story, which appears in today's edition of The Telegram, contained incorrect information. It has been corrected. Harold Douglas Grace appeared in court Monday for traffic violations, not Tom Michael Grace. The Telegram regrets the error.