A veteran police officer who prepared bogus accident reports in exchange for cash lost his bid on Friday to overturn his conviction and five-year prison term.
In upholding the guilty finding, the Court of Appeal for Ontario rejected arguments from Peel Regional Police Const. Carlton Watson that the trial judge had made errors.
While Watson didn’t claim the verdict was unreasonable, he did argue Superior Court Justice John Sproat had “engaged in impermissible speculation” in finding him guilty in February 2015 of 40 counts of fraud, making false documents, breach of trust and obstruction of justice.
The offences related to nine crash reports Watson prepared in 2010 which led to insurance payouts of more than $1 million. However, court records show, none of the crashes had actually happened.
Watson, who had joined Peel police in 1992, was accused of taking part in the scheme that involved a tow-truck driver and a friend among more than a dozen participants. The prosecution alleged the officer was paid $6,000 for each fake accident report he made.
At trial, Watson admitted to making crash reports without attending the actual accident scene, but said he relied on the tow-truck driver and friend for the relevant information. He also admitted he never spoke to any of the drivers or passengers allegedly involved in the accidents. Evidence was that he also issued tickets to the purported at-fault driver – although most of the tickets were never processed. Watson denied knowing about any fraud scheme but Sproat didn’t bite.
On appeal, the officer said Sproat had speculated about the tickets in accepting the prosecution arguments that he issued the offences as part of the scheme because it would have looked suspicious if no one involved in the accidents was charged. The Appeal Court disagreed.
“The trial judge was entitled to draw the inference that the appellant issued provincial offences tickets but deliberately did not submit them into the court system because he was a participant in the fraud,” the Appeal Court ruled.
The Appeal Court also found Sproat had used “logic and common sense” in accepting the prosecution’s view that Watson had tried to make it appear in his reports that he had been at the crash scene.
In upholding the five-year sentence as not unfit, the Appeal Court noted Watson had been convicted of a serious offence.
“A significant penitentiary term was required,” the court said. “The fact that the appellant, a police officer who is sworn to uphold the law and protect the public, abused his office by engaging in an organized fraudulent motor vehicle accident scheme is a significant aggravating factor.”