R v. Reinbrecht

In Offences in a Marine Context on (Updated )

Précis: The accused was found guilty of criminal negligence

The accused was charged with criminal negligence causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The charges arose out of a collision between the accused’s vessel and a houseboat on Shuswap Lake at 11:15 p.m. on 3 July 2010. As a result of the collision one person was fatally injured and several others were injured.

Decision: The accused is guilty on both counts.

Held: The evidence establishes that the defendant consumed some beer in the afternoon and during the evening of 3 July 2010 and smoked marijuana. However, no conclusions can be drawn as to the amount the accused consumed and it cannot be said his ability to operate his vessel was impaired by alcohol or marijuana. The evidence does establish that shortly before 11:00 p.m. the accused took two others out on a “joy ride” which involved high rates of speed, “donuts” and “zig zag” manoeuvres in close proximity to other boaters and boats moored near the shore. At the time of the collision the accused’s boat was proceeding at a speed of approximately 30 miles per hour and had just performed a “U” turn. Within seconds of the last “U” turn the boat collided with the starboard quarter of the houseboat. At the time the accused was sitting in the boat and had not seen the houseboat. The houseboat was proceeding at a speed slower than 8 miles per hour and had been following a consistent path of travel. The houseboat had its port and starboard lights and its stern light illuminated but not its mast light. It also had some interior lights on. The operator of the houseboat was impaired by alcohol and marijuana at the time of the collision. Considering all the evidence, the accused was operating his vessel in a manner that demonstrated wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons and constitutes a pattern of wanton or reckless behaviour that amounts to a marked and substantial departure from the standard of care of a reasonably prudent vessel operator in the circumstances. The accused “ought to have foreseen in the circumstances the obvious and serious risk of collision with any number of navigation hazards, lit and unlit, stationary and moving, that close to shore and the consequences to others as a result. Striking other vessels, even dimly lit ones, was well within the reasonably foreseeable risk of engaging in that kind of conduct in those circumstances. The risks were so obvious and serious that [the accused] either recognized them and ran them, or gave no thought to them at all.”