24 Feb Police Responsibility in High Speed Chases
The main issue in the case of Kweon v. Roy, 2016 BCSC 2305, was whether an RCMP officer was partly responsible for causing an accident by initiating a high speed pursuit of the Defendant’s vehicle in dangerous circumstances. The Plaintiff, Ms. Kweon was a passenger in a vehicle that was struck by the Defendant, Mr. Roy, as he attempted to evade Constable Leckie of the RCMP. The Defendant sped away from a red light in an unsafe manner and was followed by Constable Leckie, who attempted to pull him over to issue him a ticket under the Motor Vehicle Act. The Defendant attempted to evade Constable Leckie and ran a red light, hitting the Plaintiff’s vehicle. It was admitted that the Defendant was responsible for the accident but it was alleged that there should be an apportionment of liability as Constable Leckie was also partly responsible.
The issue of whether the RCMP was liable turns on whether Constable Leckie engaged in a “pursuit” of the Defendant. In order for the police to engage in a pursuit, the officer must have reasonable grounds to believe that the need for immediate apprehension of the accused outweighs the risk to the public which is created by a pursuit situation. Police officers cannot initiate a pursuit to apprehend a suspect for an offence under the Motor Vehicle Act. The case law suggests that officers will be liable for the damage caused by a pursuit if it was initiated to apprehend a suspect for a minor offence, without the officer properly considering the significant danger to the public that occurs as a result of an officer pursuing a suspect at high speeds.
The Court held that Constable Leckie owed a duty of care to other motorists when he initiated a pursuit of the Defendant and breached that standard of care by failing to terminate the pursuit despite the obvious dangers it presented. The Court also noted that Constable Leckie breached the law and RCMP policy by initiating a pursuit for only a minor offence under the Motor Vehicle Act. The Defendant was only speeding in an attempt to evade Constable Leckie, and if Constable Leckie had not initiated the pursuit or terminated the pursuit when it became dangerous, the accident would likely not have occurred.
The Court found the Defendant 85% responsible and Constable Leckie 15% responsible for the injuries suffered by the Plaintiff.