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Premier’s daughter to challenge cell-phone law

The daughter of Premier Craig Cannonier is seeking to challenge the Island's law banning the use of hand-held devices while driving.

Samaela Cannonier, 23, denied the May 27 charge in Magistrates' Court yesterday.

Her lawyer, Saul Dismont, argued that a previous ruling by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley set a precedent allowing the law to be contested on constitutional grounds.

Mr Dismont referred to the July 2012 appeal in the Supreme Court by Catherine Farnsworth, who had been convicted for listening to an iPod while riding her motorcycle.

Ms Farnsworth lost that appeal but had her sentence reduced — and Mr Justice Kawaley took the occasion to question whether Bermuda's approach was “too restrictive of personal freedom”.

The Chief Justice's ruling added that such a question might arise “in a constitutional complaint that the legislation unduly impairs the freedom to receive information and ideas under section nine of the Constitution”.

Section nine covers freedom of expression, including the freedom to “receive and impart ideas and information without interference”.

Bermuda's ban on the use of hand-held devices, put in place under section 44 of the Motor Car (Construction, Equipment and Use) Regulations 1952, has been challenged before: for example, in 2012, teenage student Latonia Fray successfully argued her case in Magistrates' Court.

Mr Dismont told Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner that Bermuda's legislation “casts a far wider net than other jurisdictions” — suggesting that the law, if read strictly, would allow a driver to be convicted even if their cell phone was in the trunk of their car.

Mr Warner responded: “It depends on the facts of the case.”

However, he said that if he found no constitutional basis to tackle the legitimacy of the law, Ms Cannonier and her lawyer could still take their case to the higher court on appeal.

Voicing her scepticism, Crown counsel Susan Mulligan said the officer who'd stopped Ms Cannonier had observed her talking while driving with a Samsung phone in her helmet.

“After she was stopped, she told the officer that it was her job calling,” Ms Mulligan added.

But Mr Dismont said he was confident enough of the case to take it on for free.

Speaking afterwards, the lawyer said the wording of the ban on hand-held devices was so broad that, if taken literally, a person might be liable for prosecution even if they saw someone else driving with a cell phone in their car and failed to stop them.

The law states that “no person shall drive, or cause or allow any other person to drive, a motor car on a road if he is using a hand-held mobile telephone” — including having a device potentially available for use.

Mr Warner adjourned the matter until February 11, granting Ms Cannonier, of Anchorage View Road, St George's, bail of $500.

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Published November 05, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated November 05, 2013 at 9:43 am)

Premier’s daughter to challenge cell-phone law

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