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Fighting speeding tickets ties up police resources in court

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Const. Ken MacDonald of the New Glasgow Regional Police approaches a vehicle.
Read more about our Need for Speed, its risks and consequences
Read more about our Need for Speed, its risks and consequences

NEW GLASGOW, N.S. — There’s a hidden cost to speeding tickets.

While heavy-footed drivers may grumble about the financial hardships of a fine or the points taken off their licence, police forces often must take into account the cost of seeing the fine through from the issuing of the ticket to the accused’s day in court, if they should so choose.

Annapolis Royal Police Chief Tim Moser calls it the cost of doing business. It’s something he constantly keeps in mind as the head of a small police force.

With a police force of four, there are usually one to two officers on duty at a time. If an officer is on duty and is scheduled to be in court, that’s where they’ll be, waiting to give their statement.

But because of the staffing levels, rather than have another police officer fill in on the shift, Moser is left to rely on the fact that if an incident happens that requires police attention, the officer in court is ready to leave at a moment’s notice. In most cases, the court is flexible enough to adjust its schedule until the officer returns.

“The courts are fairly decent to deal with,” he said, adding that there is also the option of calling for mutual aid from neighbouring departments.

Moser used to work for the much-larger Halifax police department and said even larger forces had to look at mitigating the impacts on overtime caused by court appearances.

Don Hussher is police chief for the Westville and Stellarton police departments in Pictou County. When someone decides to fight a ticket, officers are then required to be in court in Pictou for the trial.

But dealing with the court process is something that police officers are accustomed to, he says.

“You have to realize that the person that is innocent until proven guilty," Hussher said. “The court process is a big part of policing.”

He hasn’t found the cost associated with court appearances to be too much of a drain on the departments, but he does try to be mindful of it.

“It’s the nature of the business. If you have to charge people, you expect to be in court,” he said. “They have a right to a fair trial. We have to accommodate them.”

According to stats from the Department of Justice, from 2014 through 2017, roughly eight per cent of people fought speeding tickets in court.

Hussher said there was once a time that officers were required to be there for plea dates and arraignments, which was even more taxing on police departments, but now officers aren’t required to be in court as much as they used to be.

Read more about our Need for Speed, its risks and consequences

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