By Tom Collins
OTTAWA — An Ottawa agricultural lawyer is warning farmers they can’t purposefully hurt trespassers after an Ontario teenager suffered a long but shallow cut to the neck when she drove her ATV into a steel cable strung across a private road.
Arnprior’s Taylor Yach, 16, was driving her ATV near her family’s cottage in Quebec when she ran into the wire.
“I didn’t see it until the last minute and it was blending into the trees,” Yach told CBC News. “I didn’t have any time to hit the brake. I didn’t have any time to duck. I thought I was going to die. I could have been decapitated.”
Ag lawyer Kurtis Andrews told Farmers Forum that landowners wanting to keep trespassers off their property need to do so safely, such as installing a gate or posting no trespassing signs. Andrews wouldn’t recommend wire at all, as even if you put flags on it, the flags can fall off making the wire difficult to see.
A landowner could get a maximum of 10 years in prison if someone is injured from a booby-trap, and life in prison if someone is killed. The Criminal Code says everyone is criminally negligent who “shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.”
So it doesn’t matter if an ATV or snowmobile rider is trespassing, said Andrews.
“You can’t intentionally set a trap to hurt somebody,” he said. “Just because they’re in the wrong doesn’t excuse you from being in the wrong. On the civil side of things, a trespasser could sue you. You could sue them for trespassing and you could receive peanuts, and if they’ve been injured, they could succeed and get a fairly large sum of money from you potentially.”
However, a landowner would not be criminally responsible if someone else installed traps without the landowner’s knowledge.
Wires erected across trails is not unheard of. Grey County OPP says someone strung barbed wire about three feet off the ground across four snowmobile trail entrances to Crown land in Grey Highlands last January. The RCMP put out a warning in March, 2014 of a rope strung across a bridge on a snowmobile trail in the Cornwall area. In New York State in 2013, piano wire was erected in a field around marijuana plants to keep others away and the pot grower accidentally decapitated himself while driving up to his plants on an ATV.