A longtime Brandon University professor who has pleaded guilty to a drunk driving charge is about to begin counselling and will seek a discharge, court has been told.
John Angus Blaikie’s case has been adjourned while he takes the counselling and he will then pursue a curative discharge, his lawyer informed court.
“Your honour, pleas are in. This is a situation where we are seeking a curative discharge,” defence lawyer Patrick Sullivan told Brandon provincial court on Thursday. “Mr. Blaikie has counselling lined up and it will begin at the start of June.”
Sullivan indicated that the unspecified counselling would be complete by the end of June, and Blaikie’s next court date was fixed for July 10.
Facts of the case haven’t been shared in court but, according to RCMP, Blaikie was charged after they pulled over a vehicle on the Trans-Canada Highway in the RM of Whitehead, between Virden and Brandon, on Jan. 19.
Mounties said it was being driven at a high rate of speed, and the driver showed signs of impairment.
There were three passengers in the vehicle.
The driver was arrested and provided breath samples with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit, police said.
That’s consistent with a report that the 66-year-old Blaikie was pulled over while returning from a conference in Regina with three students.
On March 20, Blaikie pleaded guilty to driving with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit. He also pleaded guilty to speeding under the Highway Traffic Act.
In general, a curative discharge is an alternative to jail for certain accused who plead guilty to impaired driving.
The philosophy behind the curative discharge is that the public interest is better served if an alcoholic, given their illness, is rehabilitated rather than jailed.
A curative discharge is not court-ordered, it’s something an offender chooses to undertake.
It’s typically an option pursued by an offender when the Crown attorney seeks jail — either due to a recent prior drunk driving offence, for example, or because the circumstances of the drunk driving were bad (but not so bad that they involved a collision with injury or death).
To be eligible, the offender needs to plead guilty, and needs to show that he or she has an addiction.
The offender also needs to show that they’ve taken counselling (such as Alcoholics Anonymous or residential treatment), and made a genuine effort at recovery and achieved a period of sobriety.
Those steps can be done prior to the hearing and they increase the offender’s chances of getting a discharge during the hearing held before a judge.
A hearing may be set for months following a guilty plea.
The burden is on the defence to justify a discharge, but success isn’t a given.
If the bid for a discharge fails, the offender is sentenced on the charges — although it’s still at the judge’s discretion as to whether jail is imposed.
If the curative discharge is granted, the offender is spared jail and put on conditions that can include an order to continue or pursue counselling.
If the offender follows the conditions, their offence won’t appear on their record.
If they fail to follow the conditions, the Crown can bring the matter back to court for the offender to be sentenced.
The offender is still subject to licence suspensions.
All of this is a general description of the curative discharge process.
Outside of court, Sullivan said he can’t comment on the specifics of Blaikie’s case.
Blaikie is a longtime university professor who most recently taught 20th-century literature, science fiction and Shakespeare to first and second-year students.
Students said the professor was on administrative leave following the incident.
BU wouldn’t comment on Blaikie’s current status, citing its policy not to comment on personnel matters.
However, his name appears on the university website on a list of employees that “BU will be saying farewell to” during a Long Service Recognition Event next week.
A job posting in the English department has also appeared, specifically asking for a candidate to teach Shakespeare and the literatures of the Renaissance through the 18th century.
» Twitter: @IanHitchen
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 3, 2014