A trial judge was more than justified in rejecting a two-year joint submission by counsel for a driver who struck three vehicles, killing one person and injuring another, while driving at high speed down the wrong side of the road, the province’s top court has ruled.

In fact, the Alberta Court of Appeal said in its ruling released on Wednesday, that it may have even increased the two years and eight months prison term meted out to Ryan Jordan Gibson by provincial court Judge Karim Jivraj last May — if the Crown had given notice for an increase.

“When all the circumstances and factors here are taken into account, including Gibson’s degree of intoxication and his driving pattern, which included crossing into the wrong lane on a highway and striking not one but three oncoming vehicles without taking any evasive action, a fit sentence here would be no less than four years,” wrote Chief Justice Catherine Fraser, and Justices Peter Martin and Patricia Rowbotham.

“The sentencing judge remained unconvinced, being of the view that Gibson’s driving was far more egregious and blameworthy than that in the case law presented to him. He determined that a two-year sentence would therefore fail to meet the principle of proportionality and, on that basis, rejected the joint submission.”

Gibson, 24, had pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing the death of Brandon Thomas, 17, in a head-on collision on the evening of Dec. 6, 2012, on Highway 22 between Cochrane and Calgary. He also pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing serious injuries to Kelly-Anne McGillis in another vehicle he earlier forced off the road.

Kim Thomas, Brandon’s mother, said she hopes the ruling will send a message to other prosecutors to fight for higher sentences for drunk drivers who kill people.

“I knew the plea bargain wasn’t right and I pleaded with the prosecutor, as well as the appeal prosecutor, but nobody would listen,” she said. “To see what the appeal court says, I’m a mess to know that it could have been much higher.

“All I can hold on to is that it will change for somebody else in the future. I feel like I failed Brandon, but maybe this is his legacy to get justice for others.”

Gibson initially struck a vehicle driven by Dale Sewell, then struck a vehicle in which McGillis was an occupant, before colliding with Thomas’s vehicle. The offender’s blood-alcohol level was more than double the legal driving limit.

“After striking both Sewell and then McGillis, Gibon continued to drive his truck in the northbound lane on the wrong side of the road until he collided head-on with a car driven by Brandon Thomas, who died at the scene. Thomas was 17 years old and completely blameless for the collision,” said the court.

The three-judge panel said the gravity of the offence was at the high end of the spectrum, unlike a precedent case in which a driver momentarily lost control of a vehicle on an unfamiliar gravel road, went into the ditch and killed her passenger.

Gibson drove his vehicle — a three-quarter ton truck — in a manner that could only be described as dangerous in the extreme, putting in peril the lives and safety of innocent persons using the public roads,” said the court.

“He continued to drive on the wrong side of the road after passing two tractor-trailer units, accelerating up a hill, with no regard to any traffic on the other side of the hill. And then he continued on in the wrong lane even when he could not have failed to see oncoming traffic in the distance.”

Gibson was prohibited from driving for five years.

Source: Calgary Herald


Last updated on: 2015-01-30 | Link to this post