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Court keeps inquiry dates for Humber Valley Resort impaired driving fatality case

Justice scales courtroom - Stock
Justice scales courtroom - Stock - 123RF Stock Photo

A preliminary inquiry into the impaired driving causing death case of Thomas Whittle will remain set for next month, despite uncertainty over his legal representation.

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The 28-year-old man from Conception Bay South is charged with four offences stemming from a fatal snowmobile accident near Humber Valley Resort in February 2017.

Justyn Pollard, 21, was a passenger on the snowmobile allegedly driven by Whittle and died as a result of injuries sustained when the machine collided with a taxi.

The allegations, according to court documents, are that Whittle was impaired by both drugs and alcohol. The charges against him include impaired operation of a vehicle causing death, impaired operation of vehicle causing death by exceeding 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death and impaired driving causing death.

Last June, a preliminary inquiry had been scheduled for October. The inquiry did not go ahead because defence lawyer Erin Breen was unable to continue representing Whittle at the time.

His matters were taken over by lawyer Bob Simmonds and the preliminary inquiry was rescheduled for March 5-7.

When the matters were called early in provincial court Friday, Simmonds said he could no longer represent Whittle. Not only was there an irreparable breakdown in their solicitor/client relationship, said Simmonds, but there is a conflict of interest with his law firm that would prevent him from being Whittle’s counsel even if their solicitor/client relationship was somehow rectified.

Whittle, who appeared via teleconference — as did Simmonds — indicated he would be seeking representation form the Legal Aid Commission and had an appointment scheduled in mid-February.

While Crown attorney Lori St. Croix expressed concern that the new lawyer may not be ready in time for a preliminary inquiry in early March, she told Judge Catherine Allen-Westby that the dates should be kept just in case the inquiry could go ahead.

Allen-Westby agreed with St. Croix that the defence could always apply for a postponement of the preliminary inquiry if a delay was required.

Whittle also waived his right to a speedy trial during Friday’s appearance, given the nature of the delays were not the result of the Crown’s inaction or the court system.

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