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Criminal negligence causing death: Man sent to prison for breaching Collision Regulations... By Russell Robertson Vancouver lawyer with Bernard LLP - Subscriber Access Only

By BCShippingNews 31 March 2016

Five years ago, Mr. Reinbrecht’s negligent vessel operation resulted in the death of another vessel operator. His actions were recently ruled by the court to constitute criminal negligence (R. v. Reinbrecht, 2015 BCSC 1960). The collision occurred at night on Shuswap Lake in B.C.’s interior in July 2010. While operating his motorboat at high speeds and in a busy area, his boat crashed head-on into a houseboat that was travelling slowly across the lake. Due to its speed on impact, the boat ended up completely inside the houseboat, striking and fatally injuring the houseboat operator in the process. There were several other serious injuries in both vessels. The Crown brought charges of criminal negligence against Mr. Reinbrecht.

Criminal cases involving dangerous operation are typically brought in the context of negligent or dangerous motor vehicle operation. When those cases come to trial, the courts will analyze the poor driving in question against the following continuum:

  • at the low end is plain civil negligence; enough to render the driver liable for damages caused, but no criminal or administrative penalty;
  • the next rung is “careless driving” – an offence under BC’s Motor Vehicle Act carrying a maximum sentence of six months;
  • at the upper end are the Criminal Code offences of “dangerous operation” and the most serious offence: “criminal negligence.”

The same continuum applies to vessel operators, and so do the Criminal Code provisions. However, the context of maritime navigation brings with it a different set of standards and, of course, maritime-specific rules.