Randy Scott admits he likes to drive fast – and he has the driving record to prove it – but Crown counsel couldn’t prove he was on his motorcycle when it blasted along the Trans-Canada Highway at 299 km/h last year.
Judge Robert Higinbotham found Scott, 26, not guilty of dangerous driving in a high-profile case that started with a YouTube video that shows a first-person view of a high-speed ride through traffic between Uptown and Langford on April 6, 2012. The rider maxed out the bike’s speedometer at 299 km/h.
Higinbotham said the police investigation and witness testimony proved Scott owned the bike seen on the video, and that he had bragged to several people about driving at excessive speeds, but an eyewitness account of the joyride suggested somebody else could have been piloting the bike.
A pivotal statement came from a police officer with the Vancouver Island Major Crime Unit – a self-described “bike guy” – who saw the motorcycle fly past him on the highway, and described the rider as slim, 5-foot-eight to 5-foot-11, and about 170 pounds. Scott stands about 5-foot-five and is muscular.
“(The police officer) was dead accurate in his description of the motorcycle and his accuracy in that regard bears upon the weight I give to his description of the rider,” Higinbotham said. “He describes the rider as being slim in build … Mr. Scott is manifestly not slim.”
Other witnesses observed a tall man with Scott at his home and when he purchased the motorcycle. As entered into evidence, an employee of the Cactus Club told Saanich police a tall skinny man carrying a motorcycle helmet came into the restaurant and left a handwritten note – signed “The Ghost Rider” – that suggested he was the rider in the notorious YouTube video.
That note and video footage of the man were never retrieved by Saanich police, and the judge noted that the investigator “was already convinced he had his man.”
The judge also said police should have got a warrant to examine any computer used by Scott to see if someone using his computer uploaded the video. A day earlier, Higinbotham blasted the Saanich investigator for seizing and searching the bike without a warrant, calling the act “deliberate, and in no way can be considered to have been done in good faith.”
“Overall I am left with significant concerns about the course that this investigation took, and I find it frustrating that useful investigative approaches were not considered important,” he said.
It was the physical description, rather than the warrantless search and seizure of the bike or other investigative failings that let Scott off the hook. The Esquimalt resident has a long record of driving infractions, including numerous tickets for speeding and driving without a licence.
A witness who lives at the same apartment complex as Scott testified that he told her about driving his new motorcycle at 280 to 300 km/h and that he had a bike mounted camera. She later called police when she saw the video and news stories.
A Saanich police officer unrelated to the case testified she spoke with Scott at the Commonwealth pool sauna on April 9 where he bragged that he enjoyed driving fast, and showed her a scar from a reckless motorcycle crash in Kelowna, while knowing she was a police officer.
She testified Scott had mentioned a YouTube video called “Victoria Run – 299 kilometres” (more accurately, the video is titled “victoria highway run 299km”), that his “friend had made.” Soon after the police started investigating the video, Scott transferred ownership of the motorcycle into his mother’s name.
Despite these admissions, Higinbotham said it doesn’t conclusively place Scott on the bike as depicted in the video.
“We started with two issues – was it the motorcycle in the video and was Mr. Scott driving it?” said Crown prosecutor Steve Fudge after the verdict. “The judge had a reasonable doubt.”
Fudge noted that the problematic warrantless seizure of the bike didn’t weigh on the reasoning behind the verdict. “The police are limited in their resources. If we had more evidence we would have had a stronger case probably. But you have to work with what you’ve got,” he said.
Scott had no comment after the verdict and drove away with a friend. His lawyer Michael Mulligan said he was surprised police didn’t follow up on leads, and that the motorcycle was forfeited to the Crown and sold so quickly, instead of preserving it as evidence for the criminal trial.
“The judge balanced the serious errors with the strong desire to try the case on its merits,” Mulligan said. “There is more satisfaction in that rather than being acquitted on technical grounds.”