Three people in Vancouver are charged with illegal tree-cutting, and the case against them has the option of using pictures taken by a Google Street View camera which happened to be operating in the neighborhood and recorded the scene. The Google Street View shows the truck and workmen on the site, which was littered with tree debris as well as the fresh cut stumps along the property’s fence line.
Charges filed against the land owner, Margaret Burnyeat, her daughter, Elizabeth Burnyeat and Michael Saffronick of Saffronick Tree Care Ltd. claim they exceeded the terms of their permit to remove two trees and violated the old tree bylaw by allegedly cutting down 23 cedar, cypress and evergreen trees on a residential lot. After the neighbors filed complaints, the city of Vancouver’s legal department investigation discovered the Google Earth pictures.
There has been no decision to use the Google Street View, but City official Theresa Beer said, “Our city’s legal department is aware of that. How they will use that as evidence, I’m not clear. But it is an interesting new dimension, perhaps, of legal evidence.” Penalties between $500 to $20,000 per tree are possible. “[The] two trees that were properly permitted were taken off the total of the trees that fall under the tree bylaw,” Beer said. Even though a new tree bylaw became effective on January 1, 2010, the charges apply under the old bylaw since the original permit was filed with the City of Vancouver on May 14, 2009.