GEORGETOWN – One of P.E.I.’s provincial judges has been breaking the law in Georgetown.
Then again, it’s likely most people who have visited the Kings County Courthouse in the past are just as guilty.
Even The Guardian’s own court reporter, Ryan Ross, has disclosed his negligence toward a town bylaw enacted in 2004.
Tammy Riley, a Georgetown resident, recently filed a complaint on the matter with Three Rivers. It was against a few vehicles for parking on the shoulder of Kent Street for extended periods – namely one driven by Judge Nancy Orr, who presides at the courthouse once a week.
“Everybody in town would know who she is and where she parks,” Riley said. “She has consistently parked there every Thursday. No tickets, no nothing.”
This wasn’t an issue for Riley until she was checking for possible rules against snowmobilers passing through the town. It was another rule in the parking and traffic control bylaw, which applies to every street in Georgetown, that stood out to her, she said.
“A driver of a vehicle shall not stop or park that vehicle; in (excess) of one hour between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., unless actively engaged in a loading process,” section five reads.
The courthouse was built in the late 1880s and has six parking spaces off of Glenelg Street. There is no signage posted outside the courthouse that would indicate this bylaw is subject to enforcement.
For reference, the bylaw also reads “no person shall jaywalk upon any street within the town”.
But the bylaw was adopted by Three Rivers when it amalgamated and is in effect. Community services manager Dorothy Macdonald said Three Rivers contracts a third-party company to enforce its bylaws, which is similar to many rural P.E.I. municipalities.
Macdonald was neither unaware of any concern around this rule nor Riley’s complaint when contacted by The Guardian last week.
“That may not have gotten in the queue yet. Our bylaw officer doesn’t work every day,” she said.
Three Rivers consists of multiple towns and communities, four of which have distinct bylaws in place. Generally, complaints can help the officer to flag rule violations.
“But the bylaw officer, when she’s here, she does drive through the communities and check things out. So, it can happen either way,” Macdonald said.
The RCMP is also able to enforce bylaws, if necessary. Riley contacted the Kings District RCMP directly to report additional violations outside the courthouse on April 29.
Const. Hugh Panelas said he’s never had to deal with this particular rule. He investigated Riley’s complaint but didn’t enforce the bylaw for reasons he couldn’t delve into.
“We do have officer discretion when it comes to any summary offense tickets,” he told The Guardian. “I followed up with as many vehicles (owners) as I could, and I have decided not to proceed by any fines at this time.”
P.E.I.’s Chief Judge Jeffrey Lantz said most people would know Islanders have been parking on the roads outside the courthouse for decades. The provincial court was also unaware of the rule up until now, he said.
“If it were ever enforced it would create a serious access-to-justice issue,” he wrote in an email to The Guardian on behalf of Orr, “as staff, judges, police, accused people and the general public would have nowhere to conveniently park to attend court.”
Lantz plans to follow up with Three Rivers to clarify the intent of the rule and whether there may be any exemptions for when court is in session. He doesn’t know of any formal arrangements the court may have with the town for where to park, he said.
“I would think that common sense would come into play in regard to an important institution in the community like the courthouse and the citizens who access it.”
The Guardian also attempted to clarify the bylaw’s intent or whether there are possible exemptions but was unable to by print deadline.
Rev. Gary Harris, a minister at Georgetown Baptist Church on Glenelg Street, said there has been an arrangement with the courthouse for at least the past 10 years. People can use the church’s parking during court sessions and vice versa during Sunday services.
“We know on Thursdays we’re not going to schedule some sort of event,” he said. “There is complete harmony here.”
Three Rivers council happens to be considering an amendment for section seven of the same bylaw as of its April 26 meeting. As for why Riley filed the complaint, she believes an amendment is needed, otherwise, the bylaw’s rule should be abided by and enforced.
“(And) Judge Orr is a hard ass on people,” she said. “When anybody else breaks the law, they get the maximum penalties from her. So, she needs to be held accountable.”