Appeal court rules judge erred in acquitting man on three charges in accident that killed female passenger

The B.C. Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial for a man who was acquitted of three charges in connection with a 2010 crash that killed the passenger in his vehicle.

Garret Anthony Saul was acquitted in January 2014 by a provincial court judge in Chilliwack of impaired driving causing death, driving with a blood-alcohol level over 0.08 causing death and dangerous driving causing death.

The charges arose out of a crash that occurred on Aug. 9, 2010 at about 9:30 p.m. Saul was driving on Highway 1, about five kilometres north of Hope near Lake of the Woods, when he failed to negotiate an S-curve turn.

Saul’s vehicle left the road, rolled down an embankment and came to rest upside down, crushing the roof and trapping his female passenger. She was killed instantly. Saul suffered relatively minor injuries.

A police officer who spoke to Saul immediately following the crash described him as having watery eyes, a flushed face and slurred speech, but did not smell alcohol on his breath. The officer was suspicious Saul may have been drinking because Saul had been fishing that day.

However, Saul seemed to understand his questions and his difficulty walking and standing could have been attributed to the crash.

There was liquor in the car, but none of it appeared to have been opened.

At 11:43 p.m. three blood samples were taken from Saul at a hospital. They produced readings of 0.161 and 0.175 blood-alcohol content.

At trial, a forensic specialist estimated that at the time of the crash Saul’s blood-alcohol content would have been between 0.183 and 0.219. She said that for Saul’s blood alcohol to have been below the legal limit he would have had to engage in bolus drinking, which is the consumption of alcohol within 30 minutes of the alleged driving offence. It is considered a relatively rare phenomenon.

The trial judge concluded that the Crown had not proven that there had been no bolus drinking and acquitted Saul.

The Crown appealed, and in a decision released on Tuesday the B.C. Court of Appeal allowed the appeal, set aside the acquittals and ordered a new trial because of several material errors in the judge’s analysis.

These included finding it a reasonable possibility that Saul engaged in bolus drinking based solely on conjecture or speculation, and giving no weight to circumstantial evidence that made it highly improbably that Saul had engaged in bolus drinking.

Source: The Province

Last updated on: 2015-04-27 | Link to this post