Appeals court says judge who acquitted Nazi man of hit and run ‘committed errors of law’
The Nova Scotia Court of Appeals has released a written decision explaining why it overturned a Cape Breton man’s acquittal in connection with the hit and run of a 10-year-old girl who was riding a bicycle.
While a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals last month ordered a new three-count trial for Colin Hugh Tweedie, it only released its reasons this week.
The written decision said Nova Scotia Superior Court Justice Mona Lynch “erred in law” in relation to the charges she acquitted Tweedie on – driving resulting in death, failing to stop in a fatal accident and dangerous operation a motor vehicle resulting in death.
“Because of these errors, the decision to acquit Mr. Tweedie was legally flawed,” the decision said.
Tweedie was driving an SUV on Black Rock Road in Victoria County on July 11, 2019 when he met Talia Forrest at 9:42 PM AT.
Tweedie was driving north in the south lane at the time of the accident. An accident reconstruction expert determined that Forrest’s bike was dragged 1.15 kilometers under Tweedie’s vehicle.
When he got to his nearby home, he told his girlfriend that he hit a deer.
Tweedie later told RCMP that his girlfriend was driving the SUV. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for lying about it.
3 points raised in Crown’s appeal
Two alcohol samples were taken after Tweedie’s arrest. The one on which the crown is based was taken at 1:51 a.m. on July 12, about four hours after the collision. It showed a blood alcohol level of 0.06.
The appeals court’s decision said Lynch failed to consider a criminal presumption that would have increased Tweedie’s blood alcohol percentage.
The Crown argued in its appeal that Lynch did not investigate whether Tweedie was “willfully blind” because he chose to “ignore the possibility that he hit anything other than a deer”.
The decision said that if Lynch had considered this, she might have considered factors such as:
Tweedie’s guess that he hit a deer because he saw one in the area a few days ago.
Tweedie continued to drive after his airbags deployed, although he said he couldn’t see anything.
The collision happened near a spot where there is a road sign that reads “Caution – Drive Slowly, Children Playing”.
“The trial judge should have considered whether the Crown proved that Mr. Tweedie was willfully blind,” read the appeals court’s decision.
“She had to consider whether the circumstances raised a suspicion that he ignored because he didn’t want to know the truth. Not doing so was an error of law.”
The third problem the Crown cited in its appeal was its allegation that Lynch did not consider the body of evidence in determining whether Tweedie engaged in dangerous driving that resulted in death.
The appeals court decision said Lynch failed to consider some of the more important evidence of lighting and visibility at the time of the crash, contradicting Tweedie’s claim that it was dark.
The decision also said Lynch did not consider all the evidence about the road conditions.
“In my view, the trial judge’s suggestion that Mr. Tweedie may have collided with Talia on the wrong side of the road because he swerved to avoid a pothole arose because she did not consider all the evidence,” it said.
“It was pure speculation. There is no evidence to support the conclusion, especially when Mr Tweedie himself said he did not evade.”
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