Administrative law – Motor vehicles – Breathalyser test – Suspension of driver’s licence – Adjudication – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Superintendent of Motor Vehicles – Hearings – Conduct of hearings – Judicial review – Evidence – Admissibility – Procedural requirements and fairness – Standard of review – Patent unreasonableness
Swanson v. British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles),  B.C.J. No. 3238, British Columbia Supreme Court, December 14, 2006, Masuhara J.
The Petitioner sought the following: a declaration from the Court that the decision of the Adjudicator was patently unreasonable and that the Petitioner did not receive a fair hearing before the Adjudicator, an Order quashing the decision of the Adjudicator, and an Order prohibiting the imposition of a further administrative driving prohibition.
There were two main issues in this case.
The first issue was whether the Adjudicator’s decision was patently unreasonable. The Court explained that the test accords the highest level of deference to the decision-maker under review. The Court can only intervene where there is no evidence to rationally support the findings made by the decision-maker. It is sufficient if the reasoning process is apparent from the decision, and there is an evidentiary basis for the findings. The standard to be applied by the Adjudicator is that of a balance of probabilities.
The Court found that the evidence when viewed reasonably was not capable of supporting the Adjudicator’s decision. Although the Adjudicator acknowledged the Petitioner’s expert report, the Adjudicator did not resolve a critical aspect of the evidence raised by the report. Also, there were two contrary breathalyser test results; the discrepancy between the two tests was not explained by the Adjudicator. The Court therefore felt that this discrepancy cast suspicion on whether the tests were conducted properly. The Court concluded that the Adjudicator’s decision was patently unreasonable.
The second issue in this case was whether the Petitioner was deprived of a fair hearing. The Petitioner submitted that the Adjudicator breached a duty of fairness by injecting her own evidence into her findings without giving the Petitioner an opportunity to respond. The Court found that the Adjudicator was not using her knowledge as evidence, but she was rather using her knowledge to recognize the meaning of certain printouts. The Court held that there was no breach of fairness.
The Court quashed the Adjudicator’s decision, and remitted the matter back to the Adjudicator for a re-hearing.
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