January 22, 2023 – According to court documents, the driver responsible for the hit-and-run death of Qualicum Beach resident Colm Harty in August 2021 was, at the time of the incident, also facing charges in B.C. Provincial Court for another vehicular accident in 2019 that reportedly resulted in the death of one passenger and the injury of another.
The driver ended up with no charges in either fatality.
Neither the RCMP nor the B.C. Prosecution Services provided any information about their investigation into the Qualicum Beach pedestrian fatality to the family or to the public for a year.
The handling of motor vehicle injuries and fatalities by police, the government and the courts in British Columbia has raised concerns and the ire of bereaved family members and the public.
Identity of hit-and-run driver revealed
The driver did not stop his vehicle after hitting pedestrian Colm Harty on First Avenue near Primrose Street in downtown Qualicum Beach on the morning of Saturday, August 28, 2021.
As previously reported by Second Opinion QB, several people who witnessed the accident ran after the vehicle, stopping the driver about a block away, and yelling at him repeatedly to get out of the vehicle. According to sources on the scene, these witnesses detained the driver until RCMP arrived and cordoned off the crime scene. The RCMP were reported to have taken multiple photographs of the damaged front of the vehicle.
Leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident is a criminal offense under Section 320.16(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada. The Criminal Code states that charges must be filed if the offense results in the death of a person (s. 320.16(3)).
“In contrast to leaving the scene of an accident, a hit-and-run car accident is when a driver collides with another driver, or individual, and leaves the scene without providing contact information. This is a criminal offence,” according to B.C. criminal defense lawyers Aman Jaswal and Joshua Krueger.
“Failing to remain at the accident scene is considered a criminal offense, irrespective of any situation,” says Alberta personal injury lawyer Lana Kampitsch.
In September 2022 B.C. Crown Prosecution Services announced that it would not approve charges against the driver, as had been recommended by the RCMP in their Report to the Crown submitted May 30, 2022. The RCMP did not reveal what charges were recommended.
The Crown provided no reason for their decision not to press any charges under the Criminal Code of Canada or under the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act.
The driver of the vehicle that killed Colm Harty was Terry Albert Collins, a man in his mid-60s who, according to court records, was a resident of Qualicum Beach, B.C.
Same Crown prosecutor chose to not charge same driver responsible for separate motor vehicle deaths occurring two years apart
Despite first-hand witness evidence of the accident that occurred in broad daylight on a busy Saturday morning in August 2021 that took the life of Colm Harty, B.C. Crown Prosecution Services declined to charge Collins with leaving the scene of an accident, or any other infraction of the law (e.g. impaired, reckless, dangerous driving).
No charges were laid.
Second Opinion QB has recently learned that Terry Albert Collins — at the time that he struck Harty in downtown Qualicum Beach — was also facing a charge in B.C. Provincial Court for another motor vehicle accident that had occurred two years earlier.
Court records reveal that Collins was facing a serious charge under B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act relating to an accident in October 2019 that reportedly caused the death of one passenger and the injury of another. Initially, Collins was charged under MVA s. 14(1) (a) “drive a motor vehicle without due care and attention.”
At the time of the accident in Qualicum Beach on August 28, 2021, Collins was fighting the 2019 MVA charge in court, for which court proceedings had been underway almost two years.
B.C. Crown Prosecution Services withdrew their charge against Terry Collins for the Nanaimo traffic fatality on August 30, 2021 — two days after the hit and run incident in Qualicum Beach in which he had struck Colm Harty — and on the very day that Harty died from his injuries in Victoria General Hospital.
The same B.C. Crown Counsel, Leanne Mascolo, was responsible for both decisions — withdrawing the charge against Collins in the October 2019 Nanaimo traffic fatality, and deciding not to approve the charges recommended by RCMP against Collins for the August 2021 hit-and-run death of Mr. Harty.
RCMP refuse to indicate when requested investigation records will be provided
The Harty family continues to seek answers from the authorities, including the reasons why no charges were laid against the driver, Terry Albert Collins, who killed their husband and father.
In the interests of public safety, obvious questions would include whether the driver was impaired by intoxicants at the time of the accident, ill or injured? Was he given a breathalyzer test? Did he have a valid driver’s license, or any driving prohibitions or suspensions? Was he taken into custody after the incident? Was the vehicle impounded? Was the driver permitted to continue driving after the accident in Qualicum Beach?
There are unconfirmed reports from members of the community that Terry Collins was seen driving around in his vehicle after the hit-and-run death. According to acquaintances who regularly spoke with Collins — known by his “street name T-bone,”— he apparently expressed “no remorse” about the death of Colm Harty.
The RCMP were surprisingly candid in their indifference to the family’s desire for information, and to the law. After receiving the startling news that no charges would be laid in his father’s death, Aidan Harty sent a Freedom of Information request to the RCMP to obtain their records of the investigation, and later followed up inquiring as to when the records would be received.
On December 13, 2022 RCMP Access to Information Clerk Ryan Verhoek replied by email, “we cannot provide you a time line as to when it [the requested records] will be sent as there are other files in the queue that may have an impact on when your request is finalized.”
The RCMP’s response clearly breaches federal law which stipulates that an FOI request must be fulfilled within the statutory time limit of 30 days, and that the institution may have an extension of a further 30 days, if necessary. The law does not allow for indefinite or indeterminate response or delay.
Crown reveals hit-and-run driver now detained in local long-term care facility, dumping ground?
Another startling fact came to light when the Crown informed the Harty family that they would not approve the charges recommended by the RCMP. According to daughter Ellen Harty, the Crown prosecutor handling this case told her that Collins is now being confined to a locked unit in a Vancouver Island Health Authority (Island Health) long-term care facility.
Coincidentally, the revelation that Collins is now apparently in LTC lockdown came at about the same time that Second Opinion QB received concerns from several independent parties that “younger men without any dementia symptoms” were recently observed moving in and then out of a local long-term care facility after a relatively short period of time, residing in rooms that normally would be occupied by seniors requiring 24×7 care.
Concerns were expressed by care facility residents and visitors that these “weird” individuals did not seem to fit the model of the typical LTC resident, and they worried that they might be “criminals” or psychiatric patients serving a limited sentence.
It turns out that this is not as unlikely a prospect as it would immediately seem.
On December 21, 2022, CTV News reported that a physician with four decades of experience in long-term care has expressed concern that some long-term care homes are “becoming a dumping ground for psychiatric patients.”
Dr. Maurice St. Martin, a Sudbury, Ontario physician, said that these “inappropriate admissions…” in Ontario long-term care homes “pose a real threat to your 80, 90-year-old demented patients.”
The Ontario government refuted Dr. St. Martin’s concerns, claiming that their policy would not allow this to occur but St. Martin was adamant. “That may be the policy, but St. Martin said that hasn’t been his experience.”
Questions remain about whether Terry Collins is being detained in long-term care. If true, is his detention in LTC a result of the hit-and-run death of Colm Harty, is he prohibited from leaving the facility, and has his driving license been revoked or suspended? The silence from the Crown only fuels public speculation.
Complaints across B.C. about police, Crown being soft on dangerous drivers or inconsistently applying the law
Colm Harty’s family and friends are not alone in their anger and frustration at law enforcement, and what appears to be poorly enforced and selectively applied laws.
Prosecutor Leanne Mascolo reportedly informed the Harty family that one of the reasons Terry Collins was not charged was “his age” (mid-60s), but other motor vehicle death and injury cases reveal that people much older than Collins are charged with offenses in similar hit-and-run cases. As noted earlier, this act is considered a criminal offense, regardless of any situation. The Criminal Code does not identify the driver’s age as a reason to preclude criminal charges.
Growing public dissatisfaction with police, lawmakers and the courts in British Columbia for their handling of motor vehicle injury and death cases is increasingly being reported in the media, as the following examples reveal.
Death of Victoria teenager acknowledged by driver, but responsibility denied as just “an accident”
On January 5, 2023, the family of Kaydence Bourque attended a court appearance in Victoria, B.C. for the driver who killed the teenager on December 6, 2021.
According to a report by Capital Daily, “Kaydence, 16, was struck by the driver of a pickup truck around 9:45 pm on Dec. 6, 2021… He never regained consciousness and died the next day.” The family is said to be “outraged” that the driver, who remained on the scene, is now disputing the charge of driving without due care, claiming it was only a “terrible accident.”
“The driver, Margarita Citron, faces one charge under the Motor Vehicle Act, driving without due care — a violation that comes with a $368 fine and six demerit points. In court, a judge can impose larger fines and the possibility of prison time.
“Kaydence’s family cannot pursue a wrongful death trial in civil court,” according to the article, “because the Family Compensation Act, which allows for damages claims from close family members, applies only to economic losses. Even if Kaydence had survived, his family would have very little recourse due to a no-fault insurance policy introduced in 2021 that prevents people injured in motor vehicle crashes from taking at-fault drivers to court, except in cases where the driver received criminal charges — something that didn’t happen in Kaydence’s case.”
Mission RCMP ignored witnesses’ evidence of hit-and-run injuries, brushing incident off
In June 2022, a driver was reported to have verbally threatened walkers participating in an organized march for Indigenous reconciliation, before striking and injuring multiple people, and then driving away. According to a news report by Global TV, the RCMP initially excused the driver as being “impatient.” Later, after considerable public and media pressure, the elderly male driver turned himself in to the police and was charged under Section 320.13(1) of the Criminal Code, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.
Driver facing charges for 2019 hit-and-run that injured two Burnaby police officers
In a news release reported by Black Press, RCMP said the driver is facing two counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm, two counts of failing to stop after an accident causing bodily harm and one count of public mischief.
Elderly driver arrested in a 2018 Port Alberni hit-and-run
CHEK News reported about a hit-and-run in Port Alberni that “a 54-year-old woman remains in the hospital with serious injuries. Investigators were soon able to track down the suspect at his home. Police say he is elderly.” RCMP said, “An arrest was made later on in the evening and the vehicle was seized for any subsequent forensic examination.”
Pickup truck driver facing multiple charges after Mission, BC hit-and-run
As reported by Global News, the victim of a March 2019 accident “was taken to hospital with minor injuries. The driver was later located by police and charged with several offences under the Motor Vehicle Act.”
Assistant Deputy Attorney General responds to recent criticisms of the criminal justice system
These troubling inconsistencies warrant a fulsome explanation from the B.C. Prosecution Service, headed by Assistant Deputy Attorney General Peter Juk, K.C.
Juk issued a rather lengthy (seven page) media statement on September 8, 2022 defending the B.C. Prosecution Services from recent public criticisms of its administration of the criminal justice system, from which the following excerpt is taken.
“The system is not broken. No system is perfect, however, and public confidence in the criminal justice system is vital to its success. Public scrutiny, informed discussion, and reasoned debate help to ensure that our criminal justice system is functioning properly. It also assists us in making improvements and adjustment when necessary to make sure we can fulfill our mandate as an independent, effective, and fair prosecution service,” Peter Juk, K.C., Assistant Deputy Attorney General of B.C.
READ the full media release here: