Windsor court battle could set precedent across Ontario
A court battle in Windsor could set a precedent across Ontario.
Crown attorney Brian Manarin was in Superior Court on Thursday to argue arson is a serious personal injury offence.
The argument is being made in the case against 38-year-old Patrick Warren, who has pleaded not guilty in connection with a fire at the former Pour House restaurant at 46 Chatham St. West.
No one was injured in the Feb. 12 fire that caused $75,000 in damage, but Manarin argues the inherent risk of starting a fire makes the crime a serious offence.
To make his argument before Justice Greg Verbeem on Thursday, Manarin called on one of the firefighters injured in an accident from March 2007.
Four firefighters were seriously injured when their truck rolled on Huron Church Road at the foot of the Ambassador Bridge.
George Copeland , the driver of the truck that day, has been paralyzed ever since.
Jamie Waffle, who was in the back seat of the fire truck, testified he doesn't remember the accident and was startled to look at the images of "the pole being completely wrapped around where my seat was.”
Waffle suffered a shattered left arm, which doctors thought he would lose, in addition to a broken neck and a head injury that required 18 stitches.
Manarin argues the testimony illustrates the "inherent risk” firefighters face for all calls, especially fires that are intentionally set.
That is why he is arguing for a serious personal injury offence. If convicted, Warren could face a longer sentence and the crown could ask to have him declared a dangerous offender.
It also would mark the first time in Ontario that a judge has included arson as a serious offence.
Defence lawyer Daniel Topp argues no one was hurt in the Pour House fire, and the mere possibility of injury can't be equated with likelihood.
He also asked the judge to consider this building was "unoccupied" at the time of the fire.
Investigators say the fire was set in a small garbage shed behind the building, and Topp says it only found its way into the building through a ventilation fan.
Justice Verbeem will make rule on serious personal injury application on Feb. 26.
The date for Warren’s trial has yet to be determined.