R v. Escott

In Offences in a Marine Context on (Updated )

The accused was charged with dangerous operation of a vessel causing death. The charge arose out of a collision between a vessel being operated by the accused and another vessel. A passenger in the accused’s vessel died as a result. The collision occurred at night in total darkness. The accused’s vessel was displaying no navigation or running lights. The accused’s evidence was that the running lights impeded his night vision and his practice was to turn them off in conditions of reduced visibility. The accused’s vessel was proceeding at a speed of 26 miles per hour and the other vessel was proceeding at 32 miles per hour.

Decision: Accused guilty.

Held: The Crown must prove both the actus reus (the act) and the mens rea (the mental element) of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case the actus reus is the operation of a vessel in a manner that is dangerous to the public having regard to all the circumstances. The focus is on the risks created by the manner of driving not the consequences. The focus of the mens rea is whether the manner of operation is a “marked departure” from the standard of care of a reasonable person. It is not required to prove the accused deliberately operated the vessel in a dangerous manner. The accused was operating his vessel at an unsafe speed, without navigation lights, in a narrow channel where there was a risk of collision and he did not keep a proper look-out. This is operation of a vessel in a manner dangerous to the public and the actus reus is proved. With respect to the mens rea element, the accused’s manner of operation of the vessel displayed a reckless disregard of extreme risk and in the circumstances, exhibited a marked departure from the norm.

Comment: The accused was later sentenced to two years in prison. The reasons can be found at 2013 BCSC 555.