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News Report

Former Officer Appeals Conviction

Insp. Allan Stickney is appealing his impaired-driving conviction. His lawyer, Jay Watson, will argue whether there were reasonable and probable grounds for arresting Stickney under the Highway Traffic Act. The Act requires only concern about Stickney's sobriety in the circumstances. Police observed Stickney for six minutes over half a city block; he was stumbling, staggering, with slow walk and speech and a strong smell of alcohol, before he got into his van and revved the engine.

Insp. Al Stickney
Insp. Allan Stickney Impaired driving conviction. Stickney was arrested under the Highway Act based on concerns about his sobriety in the circumstances.

SASKATOON  —   The two rookie constables who arrested now-retired police inspector Al Stickney for having care and control of a motor vehicle while impaired did not have “reasonable and probable grounds” to detain him based on what they saw after he left a Broadway Avenue bar around closing time almost two years ago, Stickney's lawyer argued Friday in Saskatoon Court of Queen's Bench.

The 53-year-old Stickney, who announced his retirement shortly after a provincial court judge found him guilty last November, should not have been convicted of the charge, Jay Watson said during verbal arguments on the former officer's appeal of his conviction.

Stickney's trial heard evidence that the two female officers, who were walking a beat in the area when Stickney and a companion left the bar, observed the two men “stumbling and staggering” as they crossed the street toward the parked van, Watson conceded.

However, “clearly at no time did the gentlemen fall over,” he said, adding the officers did not ask Stickney any questions before telling him he was under arrest and had not smelled alcohol on his breath when he walked by them and said hello moments earlier.

Crown prosecutor Bill Burge argued the provincial court trial judge, Violet Meekma, was justified in ruling the two constables had reasonable grounds to arrest Stickney after he got in the van and started it.

Under the Highway Traffic Act, they didn't need any further grounds for the arrest because their actions were based on concern about Stickney's sobriety in the circumstances, Burge added.

Previous cases decided by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court have found officers had an “articulable cause” to detain people on suspicion of drunk driving based solely on the fact they were driving late at night in the vicinity of a bar, he told Justice Murray Acton.

In Stickney's case, the officers had been watching for about six minutes when they concluded he was under the influence, so his detention “wasn't arbitrary,” Burge said.

Watson argued Meekma erred when she concluded the Crown had established Stickney's impairment beyond a reasonable doubt.

During the trial, a fellow inspector who took a cab home after drinking alongside Stickney for most of the night testified they'd each consumed 120 ounces of beer and at least one shot of tequila between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.

To a reasonable person, “that is a considerable amount of alcohol,” Burge said.

Alcohol affects different people in different ways and to different extents, Watson argued, adding the other inspector also testified he had no opinion about Stickney's sobriety and hadn't noticed any signs that his friend was impaired before he left.

Stickney “could have been intoxicated” that night – but his guilt was not established beyond a reasonable doubt at his trial, Watson said.

Acton promised to deliver a decision on the appeal “as quickly as I can.” He did not set a date.

Saskatchewan: Full Court Rulings

R. v. Stickney, 2008 SKPC 152
Saskatchewan Provincial Court / Judge V.H. Meekma / Conviction

R. v. Stickney, 2009 SKQB 282
Saskatchewan Queen's Bench Court / Judge M.D. Action / Appeal: Conviction Upheld