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Fine impedes New Glasgow man’s Army application

A New Glasgow mom who paid her son’s court fine so he wouldn’t have trouble getting into the Army wound up having the opposite effect.

George William Benson appealed his conviction for driving while his licence was suspended Jan. 7. The Registry of Motor Vehicles suspended Benson’s licence in September because he failed to take a driving course required after the police nabbed him twice for speeding in 2016.

The registry sent Benson a priority courier letter last fall notifying him his licence was suspended. But he claims not to have received it.

Benson and his mother showed up at an Access Nova Scotia office in Stellarton Jan. 12 “to voice their concerns about what they believed was an improper charge, as (Benson) was not aware that his driver’s licence was suspended,” said a Supreme Court of Nova Scotia decision released Friday.

As a result, he got his drivers licence back. Benson was of the mistaken belief that the charge of driving while his licence was suspended had also been withdrawn.

“He was told by Access Nova Scotia personnel that he must take the safe driving course, which he began and successfully completed on April 28, 2017.”

Benson, who wanted to become a soldier, continued with his application to the military.

“One of the prerequisites for joining the Army was that the applicant must not have any outstanding debts to Her Majesty the Queen. An applicant cannot take up arms in the Queen’s name and be a debtor to the Queen at the same time,” Justice Nick Scaravelli said in his decision released Friday.

Benson’s mom, “acting out of an abundance of caution, visited the Pictou Justice Centre on April 5, 2017, to ensure that there were no legal obstacles in her son’s way in his pursuit of a career in the Canadian Army arising out of his prior speeding convictions,” the judge said.

A court clerk told her that the charge against her son for driving while his licence was suspended was still outstanding.

“She was also advised that if she paid the fine, the court database and (her son’s) abstract would show no pending charges,” Scaravelli said.

Unable to contact her son for instructions, she paid the fine to have the charge dismissed.

“Unbeknownst to (Benson’s) mother, payment of the fine had the impact of creating a conviction under the Motor Vehicle Act which obligated the RMV to re-suspend the appellant’s driving licence,” the judge said.

“This acted as a bar for the Army to process (Benson’s) enlistment application. The licence was to remain suspended until at least April 5, 2018. The applicant was unable to enlist on July 4, 2017, (and) as expected the captain in charge of recruitment advised (Benson) that he would be able to re-initiate the enlistment application should his driver’s licence be restored.”

Benson asked a sympathetic provincial court judge to help sort out the mess. When that didn’t work, he appealed to the supreme court.

With the blessing of the Crown, Scaravelli was able to replace the original charge with a similar one under the Motor Vehicle Act that didn’t require his licence be revoked. Benson pleaded guilty to the charge of driving without a valid driver’s licence, and the judge fined him $295.

“Under the unusual circumstances of this case, where there was no wilful misconduct on the part of the appellant the court considers it to be in the interests of justice to allow the appeal, amend the information and grant the relief requested,” the judge said.

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