Vive Le Canada

Convicted Gas-and-Dashers to Lose Licences in N.S.
Date: Thursday, October 20 2005
Topic:


Our governments are showing that they're serious about making sure the oil companies countinue to see record profits regardless of the financial hardships its citizens must bear. Again, it seems that if it's done in the States, then it must be implemented here too, just to make sure we're "all on the same page."

Convicted Gas-and-Dashers to Lose Licences in N.S.
Canadian Press

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia has become the first province in Canada to introduce legislation intended to punish drivers who gas and dash.

Those convicted under the Criminal Code of theft by filling up their vehicles and taking off without paying will face an additional provincial sanction of losing their driver's licence, said Justice Minister Michael Baker.


"This measure will provide a strong deterrent to those who might be tempted to steal fuel," he said Wednesday prior to the introduction of the legislation.

Drivers who lose their licences will be able to reapply after six months.

Justice officials said 28 U.S. states have similar legislation in place, but no other Canadian province or territory has made such a move.

Police say the skyrocketing cost of gasoline and diesel fuel has led to a huge increase in the number of people driving away without paying.

"We are arresting people, but we are not catching near the amount who getting away," said Halifax Regional Police Chief Frank Beazley.

Neither justice officials nor Mr. Beazley had figures on how many people had been charged with gas-and-dash crimes.

But the chief said there was a clear increase in the number of complaints after the pump price broke through the $1-a-litre barrier this past summer.

The problem reached its peak in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, when record-high crude oil costs pushed the price in the Atlantic region to nearly $1.40 a litre in September.

Gas station owners also couldn't provide figures on the scope of the problem, but said the legislation is welcome and necessary, even if it is somewhat harsh.

Taking away someone's licence "is a pretty severe penalty," said Graham Conrad of the Retail Gasoline Dealers Association of Nova Scotia.

"At the same time, it's a pretty severe crime that we're dealing with. It's the sort of stuff that's been growing and something serious has to be done to curtail it."

In tracking down people who make off with $20-$40 in gasoline, police said they're often faced with drivers who claim they forgot to pay.

Proving criminal intent is a key element in prosecutions and Mr. Beazley admitted gas-and-dash cases are tough to prove in court.

New Democrat justice critic Kevin Deveaux wondered how many people would actually be prosecuted and lose their driving privileges.

Since the crime is considered theft under $1,000 by the courts, justice officials will have to parse out who was convicted of stealing gasoline.

"There could be a lot of bureaucratic issues that mean it won't be implemented as well as the minister would like to see it," said Mr. Deveaux.

Mr. Conrad of the gasoline dealers said the industry is already taking steps to protect itself from people who bolt without paying.

During late hours, pump islands at the edge of service station properties are being shut down, surveillance cameras have been added and there's better training for workers.

"I'd say in the very near future you're going to see pre-pay pumps more commonly in place than they are right now, so people have to pay before they get their gas," said Mr. Conrad.

As part of the gas-and-dash bill, the Justice Department also intends to crack down on people who don't pay their fines.

Anyone who is in default on fine payments will not be allowed to renew their driver's licence.


http://www.940news.com/nouvelles.php?cat=23&id=101965
http://novascotia.cbc.ca/regional/servlet/View?filename=ns-gas-dash20051019

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