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"You talkin' to me?"

 

- Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver

 

Next time someone gives you a nasty look and you want to shove back, think again. You might wind up with a ticket for public fighting, ranging from $500 to $3,000.

 

On Wednesday, the city's 10-member executive committee approved a bylaw banning public fights, and now city council is to vote on it, likely in mid-June.

 

Currently, there is no city regulation targeting public fighting. One of the tools available to police is a noisedisturbance bylaw that the city says is antiquated.

 

That bylaw states that cops must pinpoint who makes noises in fights to make arrests, which is near impossible in a crowd, said Claude Trudel, the executive committee member responsible for public security.

 

"With this new bylaw, as soon as a fight starts, police will be able to give tickets to those involved," Trudel said. "They won't need to wait until a fight becomes noisy."

 

Police could also charge violators under federal assault laws, but that's problematic too, because they must prove intent, he said.

 

That's not the case with a city ticket, he noted.

 

While the threat of a whopping fine might not stop drunken pub crawlers from throwing punches, he acknowledged, "having a hangover and a huge ticket the next day will make you think twice before doing that again."

 

Trudel said public fighting has grown in the past three years, especially on St. Laurent Blvd. between Sherbrooke St. and Mont Royal Ave.

 

"Young people, I'm told, are paying $20 each to rent school buses. The bus takes them downtown on hot summer nights. They get back on after the bars close."

 

Police have boosted their presence in the bar zone but the problem has got worse, with officers being brazenly assaulted by rowdy partiers, Trudel said.

 

A Montreal police spokesperson declined to comment.

 

Not everyone likes the proposed bylaw, however. Current federal and city laws are more than adequate, said veteran criminal defence lawyer Frank Pappas, who called the city's plan "preposterous."

 

Criminal Code section 175 plainly outlaws "fighting, screaming, shouting, swearing, singing or using insulting or obscene language" in public, Pappas noted.

 

"They should be worried about corruption at city hall and leave the citizens in peace."

 

Jordan Charness, a law professor in the police technology program at John Abbott College, agreed the proposed bylaw is overkill. He said it will likely be used as yet another method of crowd control. "This gives police an easy tool because there are no arrests, just tickets."

 

But Trudel was confident the bylaw will apply only to small quarrels.

 

(Courtesy of The Montreal Gazette)

 

I guess that is a step in the right direction :highfive:

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