New system for issuing tickets holds up in court

For the London Free Press - May 10, 2010 Read this on Canoe

Judge finds that electronic method of signing notices is valid

In September 2009, London police implemented a new system that allows officers to issue Provincial Offence Notices electronically.

This system requires the police officer to log into a computer and enter certain information such as date, name, address, charging statute, charging section and signature. The ticket is then printed on a mobile printer and provided to the offender.

This electronic system was the subject of a recent Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision in the Corporation of the City of London v. Brian Caza, Michael Gorlick and Chelsea O'Donoghue.

On March 11, the City of London brought an application before Madame Justice Morissette in London, seeking an order to set aside the decision of justice of the peace Jacob Bruinewood on Jan. 5 to quash three certificates of offences and an order to enter convictions for the offences.

On Nov. 18, 2009, Const. Cory Rowsell of London police served three certificates of offence on three different individuals with respect to separate offences.

London police had implemented the new system at that time, and as a result, the electronic device used by Rowsell to issue the tickets affixed an e-signature in the signature box on behalf of the constable.

The tickets were filed on Nov. 24 and remained in the possession of the court administration throughout the statutorily imposed 15-day period.

On Jan. 5, upon examining the tickets, Bruinewood quashed all three tickets on the basis that there was no "signature of the provincial offence officer." As a result, the City of London brought an application before Morissette.

In her reasons for decision, Morissette noted that under the Provincial Offences Act (POA), a certificate of offence may be completed and signed electronically in accordance with the regulations.

"The operation of Ontario Regulation 497/94 made under the POA provides statutory authority for tickets issued pursuant to the POA to be generated and signed electronically," Morissette noted in her decision.

Morissette ultimately held that "the electronic signature of the police officer affixed to the certificate of offence is presumed to be correctly affixed in accordance with the officer's official duties pursuant to the POA, and its regulation".

The court made an order for certiorari quashing the three decisions of Bruinewood and an order for mandamus directing Bruinewood to enter convictions for all three offences.

This result is not surprising, and reflects the intent of the regulation that an electronic signature on a ticket, provided it is generated in a reasonably reliable manner, is the equivalent of a handwritten signature. But it is always good to see statutes and court decisions that support advances in technology and the efficiencies and advantages they bring.