Saturday, September 12, 2009

'Stunt-driving granny' surprised by ruling

Oakville woman no legal maverick, she says

September 12, 2009
Nick Aveling

There are a few things Jane Raham, alter ego "stunt-driving granny," would like to make perfectly clear.

First and foremost, she is not a legal maverick. It was never, repeat never, her intention to "take on the law," as some media outlets have suggested. "This granny did not, and would not, even though I felt a great sense of injustice," the 62-year-old woman said yesterday.

Raham found herself at the centre of a landmark legal ruling earlier this week, after an Ontario Court judge overturned her guilty verdict and ruled a section of the province's stunt driving law is unconstitutional. She had been charged under the law for passing a truck near Kaladar at more than 50 km/h past the limit – the speed at which drivers receive an automatic conviction.

As happy as she is, Raham said she can't take credit for the decision. That belongs entirely to a paralegal association, retained by Raham to help guide her through the court process, and lawyer Brian Starkman.

"The paralegal said the association really wanted to appeal this case because they thought the law was written badly," said Raham. "I said, `You can appeal it, but I'm going to pay the fine.' Based on what had happened, I had no hope that there was going to be any room to manoeuvre there."

Enter Starkman.

According to court documents, Raham's paralegal filed a motion that included the lawyer's submissions from a similar case. Fearing the paralegal was in over his head, Justice G.J. Griffin invited Starkman to take on the appeal.

Ten months later, Raham received a call from her paralegal, who congratulated her for making "provincial history."

"I said, `What?'"

Raham hadn't paid Starkman a cent; he did it for free. Nor had she heard from him until after the appeal was won.

"The law defines stunt driving in several different ways," Starkman said. "One of them is driving a car while you're not seated in the driver's seat. I'd say that's a pretty good definition of stunt driving.

"But why should driving 50 (km/h) above the speed limit be stunt driving? It's speeding. There's another section that deals with speeding, and it already includes penalties for going 50 past the limit and more."

At this point, what worries Raham even more than the stunt driving law is the lack of regulation around impound lots in Ontario, where private operators are free to charge what they please.

She said she was quoted a fee of $100 a day, a price she challenged after a local taxi driver told her it was far above average.

In the end, said Raham, she paid a total of $588 over the course of a week. The cost was knocked off the $2,000 fine she paid before the LPA launched its appeal. "If the municipality has enlisted operations to (impound vehicles), why aren't they regulated?" she asked.

The Spec

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