© GUARDIAN PHOTO
Former Progressive Conservative candidate Shawn Driscoll says he feels vindicated now that charges against him from an alleged DUI in Alberta from 2008 have been withdrawn.
After being forced to resign as a Progressive Conservative candidate in the middle of the P.E.I. election last year amid revelations he was a wanted man in Alberta, Shawn Driscoll says his life was blown apart.
But now he is breathing a sigh of relief and hopes to start over now that all charges against him in an alleged impaired driving incident from 2008 have been withdrawn.
“It’s been tough,” he told The Guardian in an exclusive interview this week.
“This came at a very high personal and financial toll. But now, I can pick myself up and see what the opportunities are.”
Driscoll was the PC party candidate for District 15, West Royalty-Springvale – a nomination he won in a hotly contested race against former Charlottetown deputy police chief Richard Collins and former Charlottetown city councillor Cecil Villard.
But two days before the official deadline for nominations, the PC party received an anonymous letter alleging Driscoll had an unresolved DUI charge from 2008 and that there was an outstanding warrant out for his arrest.
The letter gave the party an ultimatum – go public with the information within five days or the anonymous author would do it.
The party released the information and then-PC party leader Rob Lantz asked for his resignation.
Driscoll says he was shocked to learn the charges still existed. He provided documents that appear to show he tried to deal with the matter immediately after it happened, but received no response from the Crown, according to Driscoll.
The alleged incident occurred on July 31, 2008.
Driscoll was 23 years old and living in Alberta. He says he went to a bar to pick up some friends who had been drinking there for some time. He admits to having one drink, but says a lengthy period of time passed before he finally convinced his friends to leave so he could drive them home.
When he was pulled over by police, his car smelled of alcohol. Driscoll alleges he was mishandled by the police officer at the scene and also believes he was unfairly charged with refusing the breathalyzer while he was trying to reach his lawyer.
He was also charged with impaired driving and later with refusing to appear, when he missed his court date on Sept. 3, 2008.
Driscoll maintains he made repeated attempts to contact the Crown and that his lawyer was of the understanding his Sept. 3 hearing was to be adjourned.
He says he did not hear anything from anyone about it again after that, so he believed the matter was closed.
He later went on to work in former Conservative cabinet minister Gail Shea’s office in Ottawa, and underwent a stringent CSIS background check that went back 10 years, required due to his close proximity to sensitive government documents and information.
The Alberta charges did not appear.
That’s why Driscoll says he did not know the charges were still standing, nor was he aware that a warrant for his arrest had been issued.
“There were no flags to say this was going to be a problem,” Driscoll says.
After the revelations came to light during the campaign, Driscoll turned himself into police and appeared in court in Alberta to face the charges.
His lawyer argued his Charter rights had been violated, due to the fact he says he was not given proper accomodation to seek legal advice and representation.
Finally, after many months of legal back and forth, a judge in Fort MacMurray ordered the charges against Driscoll be withdrawn at a trial on March 3.
Driscoll says he now feels vindicated.
“This proves I did take reasonable steps. I didn’t run from it, I stood up for my rights.”
But the whole ordeal came at a cost. He lost his job in Shea’s office and has had trouble finding employment, due to media coverage of his resignation and arrest warrant.
Nonetheless, he says he says he is happy to finally be able to clear his name and hopes one day he can try his hand at politics again.
“It’s very bittersweet. Yes, justice prevailed. But it was at a very great financial and personal cost.”