An OPP constable driving 170 km/h in an 80 km/h zone in pursuit of a car in 2015 reached "outrageous" speeds, says a Crown prosecutor.
The constable, Lauren Cheeseman, was eventually charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm and with dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
The car Cheeseman was chasing that evening crashed into another vehicle, seriously injuring its 58-year-old driver. A bank robbery suspect was behind the wheel of the car being chased — a suspect who was reported to have pointed a firearm at a teller earlier that day in Caledonia.
Cheeseman, now 28, was with Haldimand OPP when the crash happened on Dec. 21, 2015 in Binbrook. She was charged in March 2017 by the province's Special Investigations Unit after it probed her conduct.
In January, Cheeseman pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of mischief endangering life.
Crown prosecutor Katie Doherty argued in her sentencing hearing earlier this month that Cheeseman should get a criminal conviction and a $3,000 fine. Cheeseman's lawyer, Jimmy Lee, argued for an absolute discharge — which means she would have no criminal record.
Lee provided glowing letters from supervisors and civilians about Cheeseman's capabilities, volunteerism, professionalism, kindness, caring, compassion and community service.
Cheeseman, who has a certificate in criminal psychology and was an Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders reservist, joined the OPP in January 2014, and is now a detective with a detachment in northern Ontario.
Justice Anthony Leitch, hearing the sentencing submissions, said despite Cheeseman's "sterling character," the question is whether the gravity of the offence should prohibit a discharge.
Doherty, for the Crown, said she does not take any issue with Cheeseman's "generally positive" character. However, an absolute discharge would not help deter other officers from driving at such high speeds in the future, she argued.
"The message has to be sent that officers can't put the public at risk by driving in this manner," she said.
Court heard Cheeseman was driving a stealth cruiser, which is not clearly marked like a regular police cruiser, and is not to be used for pursuits — so Cheeseman did not activate its lights and sirens.
That fact meant people would not have been aware "what was coming at them at the speeds we're talking about" Doherty said, because there was nothing to warn them.
Cheeseman was not just on a rural highway, but also travelling through more populated areas like the villages of Canfield and Empire Corners — and as such, there was "serious criminal conduct" on Cheeseman's part, Doherty argued.
"There's outrageous speeds here ... You have the accused driving at 150 km/h in a 50 km/h zone (through Canfield). You have her driving 170 km/h in an 80 km/h zone (elsewhere).
"This was very risky conduct and, coupled with the notion she's following someone else who is driving very unsafely, it was only a matter of time before something like the collision that eventually occurred here was going to happen."
Doherty made it clear, however, that she did not tie Cheeseman's conduct to the crash, but rather, to the risk of danger to other road users.
Court heard Cheeseman was told three times to "stand down and to end the pursuit" but she continued at high speeds.
Her lawyer argued Cheeseman received ambiguous instructions from her supervisors, who wanted the licence plate of the robbery suspect's car.
He also said she couldn't "just sit there and watch a fellow who robbed a bank, produced a gun and threatened to kill somebody, just drive by (at 133 km/h)."
Although public safety is the main concern, the question is do you let an armed bank robber driving erratically get away and possibly harm someone in another robbery, he said.
"This man had to be stopped, not at all cost, but at some cost. And that's the fine, delicate balance that Const. Cheeseman was put in," he said.
Cheeseman will be sentenced on March 26.https://www.thespec.com/news-story/9192 ... car-chase/