R. v. Atlantic Towing Ltd.

In Offences in a Marine Context on (Updated )

The defendant was charged under s. 118 of the Canada Shipping Act with having taken actions “that might jeopardize the safety of a vessel or of persons on board”. The charges stemmed from a sinking of one of the defendant’s vessel in adverse weather. All crew members were saved. At the time of the sinking the vessel did not have a valid inspection certificate and was sailing 20 miles offshore whereas its documents restricted it to 15 miles. The defendant pleaded guilty to the charge but contested sentencing. The Court reviewed the principles of sentencing in safety legislation as being denunciation, deterrence, proportionality (the sentence is to be proportional to the gravity of the offence), parity (the sentence should be similar to that imposed in other cases) and restraint (the sentence should be a measured response). When dealing with corporations the Court noted that regard should be had to the conduct, circumstances and consequences of the offence, the terms and aims of the legislation and the participation, character and attitude of the corporation. In applying these principles, the Court said that a deliberate decision had been made to undertake a voyage in the face of gale warnings and farther from shore than it was supposed to be. Although there was no intention to jeopardize the safety of the crew, the risk assessment was seriously flawed. The fact that the defendant pleaded guilty was a mitigating factor as was the company’s clean safety record. Ultimately, the Court held a fine of $75,000 was appropriate.