Putting the brakes on delinquent drivers

Rosie
Rosie Gillingham
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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.”

rgillingham@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelyCourt

 

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.

 

Organizations: Canada Revenue Agency, RCMP

Geographic location: Benmore, Holyrood

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Recent comments

  • sealcove
    February 28, 2012 - 11:08

    The telegram is not helping the description of unlicensed drivers as hard tickets they seem to take it a joke

  • Joe it all
    February 28, 2012 - 10:14

    Another part of getting tough is to publish their name and picture. Then people who know them (and are concerned about the safety of the general public) will call the Police and report them. That way hopefully they will be caught sooner rather than later.

  • Dolores Linehan Sr.
    February 28, 2012 - 09:54

    I agree with Sim and the others, but would add take the cars involved, and sell them. Their friends wouldn't be so quick to let them borrow if that's what is happening. In case of stolen vehicles a long jail sentenance , no pampering, and no UI or welfare while serving their time. If one can believe the stories that go around, these guys consider it vacation time while in jair. Time for the Justice system to start playing hard ball with these guys.

  • RickinCBS
    February 28, 2012 - 08:53

    Having heard much of the fees charged for fines these days such as the $2000 for the first instance of being found driving without insurance it's no wonder the numbers increase to $30,000 so fast. It's not the solution. The point is they can't pay those early fines or they won't and so they continue to add them up. Fix the insurance system by reporting cancellations and confiscate cars more frequently and you'll take a large bite out of this problem.

  • Rick Collins
    February 28, 2012 - 08:44

    George Murphy made the right comment on CBC last night when he suggested it's time for the insurance companies to co-operate with law enforcement and create a system of reporting insurance cancellations or defaults. Fines of $2000 for not being insured for the first instance gives you a hint as to where these $40,000 in outstanding fines are coming from. It needs to be enforced in this province by impounding cars etc rather than collection agency tactics applied. Solve that problem and you're half way there. Increasing the dollar values on fines that aren't being paid is no solution.

  • Sim
    February 28, 2012 - 08:05

    I say chain gangs again too. Get the offenders out on the ORR to clean up all that garbage. The province gets "free labour" and the highway system bets cleaned up. There is absolutely no reason they should not have to pay off these fines. Whether it be work or cash.

  • Jennifer
    February 28, 2012 - 07:53

    Cut off the welfare cheques and maybe our roads would be in better shape.

  • Marg
    February 28, 2012 - 07:48

    Great incentive for more drivers with suspended licenses and outstanding fines to continue driving when they now know that little or nothing will happen if they are caught. In the meantime, with their attitudes and morals, some innocent person(s) will eventually be killed or injured for life. Make them work off their fines if they are not going to pay the full amount, and, hopefully, at the same time learn a lesson. One idea, in the Spring, get them out in noticable uniforms cleaning up our cities and highways linked together with thick ropes a couple of yards apart, and no matter what the weather is like, rain or shine. Then suspend their license for five years (as if that's going to deter them from driving again).

  • Tired of bums also
    February 28, 2012 - 07:28

    If these clowns aren't paying fines then you know they're not paying for insurance either. Here's some suggestions for the bewildered minister: make it a requirement for insurance companies to notify the police when someone cancels their insurance (these clowns make the first installment on insurance just to get the card then they cancel the insurance), make it the responsibility of sellers to notify Motor Registration when they sell their car and the bill of sale must include the buyer's driver license number (clowns will often not register their cars because they are usually not permitted to drive), make it so that the license plate stays with the driver's license and not the car (no license then no plate then it's hard to buy a car plus it will protect people who buy cars with unpaid parking tickets), lastly it should be mandatory to impound these vehicles. The bigger benefit is that it will make it harder for drunk drivers to get behind the wheel.

  • Paul
    February 28, 2012 - 07:12

    Society has become to soft .The criminals know what they can get away with . The justice system is a joke !

  • TiredOfBums
    February 28, 2012 - 06:35

    Those people have no respect for the law. They get caught, they laugh at police and their victims. They know they don't have to pay anything. Rarely, they go to jail. I wonder if their fines are forgiven if they spend a few months in jail. If so, they get PAID, in reality. I think it's time to figure out a way to make them work off the fines. I'm sure that's the one thing they despise... hard work. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with chain gangs in those situations.