Hockey coach beats impaired rap

Toronto Star.

Coach Dale Hunter
Coach Dale Hunter

LONDON – London Knights coach Dale Hunter can enjoy the playoffs without the burden of last summer’s impaired driving charges on his shoulders, the London Free Press reported today.

All charges were dismissed against the former NHL player and Memorial Cup-winning coach Thursday.

The judge said he has the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to thank.

Justice Deborah Livingstone said Hunter’s rights were breached when he was detained unlawfully in an apartment building parking lot.

She said he was unable to contact the lawyer of his choice after he was arrested on July 24, 2006.

Livingstone ordered breath samples taken from Hunter be excluded from the case and that a charge of impaired driving and having more than 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood be dismissed.

“Mr. Hunter, perhaps you should bake a cake, because the charter has served you well,” Livingstone said after she dismissed the charges, pointing out next week marks the charter’s 25th birthday.

“Trial fairness has, in my view, been significantly jeopardized by the cumulative effect of these breaches.”

The charges against Hunter stem from an incident last July when the president, co-owner and head coach of the junior hockey team was seen leaving an apartment in his pickup truck and circling a church driveway before returning to the lot.

He was stopped by a London police officer who was investigating possible burglaries in the area.

The officer said he could smell alcohol when Hunter exited his vehicle, which was straddling two parking spaces. He said Hunter’s eyes were bloodshot, that he was slow to answer and that he fumbled through his wallet for his licence.

Court heard that instead of arresting Hunter, the officer told him to wait at the back of the truck while he called a supervisor to ask whether Hunter should be given special consideration due to his position in the community.

He was told by a sergeant that he should treat Hunter as he would anyone else.

“He was not entitled, in my view, to detain Mr. Hunter while he waited for a second opinion,” the judge said, noting there was no evidence of bad driving.

Hunter said he had been drinking at a pool party earlier in the day, and that his bloodshot eyes were the result of an old hockey injury.

Livingstone said the evidence indicated Hunter was drinking and driving, but “it does not prove, in my view, to any standard that Mr. Hunter’s ability to operate his motor vehicle was impaired by the consumption of alcohol.”

At the police station, Hunter made it clear he wanted his lawyer, Patrick Ducharme of Windsor, to be contacted.

A booking officer made the call, but encouraged him to call another lawyer from a list on the wall when nobody answered.

Livingstone said the law is clear – the charter includes the right to retain a lawyer of one’s choice.