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Appeal judge upholds Rob Ramage's conviction in fatal crash

Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Rob Ramage leaves a Markham, Ont., court in a 2008 file photo.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/j.p. moczulski/The Globe and Mail

The Ontario Court of Appeal has dismissed the appeal of former NHL player Rob Ramage, who was convicted and sentenced on charges that included impaired driving causing death.

Lawyers for the former defenceman argued that his Charter rights were violated because he was on morphine and therefore not able to give informed consent when a police officer requested a urine sample. Further, they argued that a four-year sentence was too harsh.

Mr. Ramage was convicted in 2007 of impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm. He was sentenced to four years' imprisonment.

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On December 15, 2003, Mr. Ramage and former NHL player Keith Magnuson had left a funeral reception for another former NHL player, Keith McCreary. Mr. Magnuson, 56, was killed when a rental car driven by Mr. Ramage slammed head-on into another vehicle just north of Toronto. Mr. Ramage suffered lower-body injuries and a concussion. The judge's decision said that several witnesses noted the smell of alcohol on Mr. Ramage's breath and two police officers noted that his eyes were glassy and red, and that his pupils were dilated.

In his decision, the Court of Appeal judge noted that the police officer could have obtained the urine samples through a search warrant and it would have ultimately led to the same result.

"Had he done so, those samples would have been analyzed and would have produced exactly the same evidence relied on by the Crown. Looking strictly at what P.C. Cole failed to do, I do not think his conduct demonstrates the kind of disregard for individual rights that would be seen, in the long term, as posing a significant threat to the public confidence in the due administration of criminal justice," Mr. Justice David Doherty wrote in the decision, on behalf of Mr. Justice John Laskin and Mr. Justice Stephen Goudge.

He also noted that the sentencing of four years, which Mr. Ramage's lawyers have called "harsh and grossly disproportionate", was fair.

"The trial judge was faced with a very difficult sentencing problem. Having read his reasons and given the matter anxious consideration, I would defer to his conclusion that a four-year penitentiary term was necessary to properly reflect the competing, if not irreconcilable, interests at stake in the sentencing phase of these proceedings," Justice Doherty wrote.

Mr. Ramage won Stanley Cup rings with the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens. He also played for the Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Minnesota North Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers. Mr. Ramage retired after the 1993-94 season.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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