Oct 07, 2015 - OPINION: SYSTEM TOO EASY ON DRUNK DRIVERS WHO KILL

Terri Callaway

Weariness weighs down their voices.

They have seen it before. They have experienced it themselves. For these victims’ families, it’s just a matter of hitting the replay button: There seems to be no criminal treated as lightly as a drunk driver who kills.

After Sabastian Prosa was sentenced to just five years for killing Jayantha Wijeratne and his daughter Eleesha in a wrong-way highway collision following a night of drinking, the outrage filled radio talk shows and online message boards.

But it came as no surprise to those who have lived through this before.

Terri Callaway was out for a run in her Richmond Hill neighbourhood in 2006 when the mother of four young children was struck and killed by Matthew Junkert, driving with almost twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system. Junkert received five years in prison and a 10-year driving ban — one of the stiffest sentences ever handed down by an Ontario court for a motorist with no previous record.

He was out on day parole after just two and a half years and completely free after three.

Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Rob Ramage was paroled to a halfway house in London, Ont., after only 10 months into a four-year sentence for a Woodbridge crash that killed his passenger, retired NHL star Keith Magnuson.

The story is the same across Canada. Colton Keeler, 19, and Tyson Vanderzwaag, 18, died after being hit by an admitted habitual drunk driver. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three and a half years for each death — to be served concurrently. “The Parole Board of Canada released her after seven months,” writes Keeler’s father Darren. “Most get released at one-sixth as they aren’t considered a ‘danger to the public,’ even though people have already died at their hands.”

Their unending pain, he says, is further aggravated by a “broken system” of both the courts and the parole board.

“The ridiculous decisions of Corrections and the PBOC (Parole Board of Canada) make a person’s head spin. This crime is not dealt with the seriousness it deserves. People get more time for growing pot than for killing people.”

On the books, impaired driving causing death carries a maximum life sentence. It’s just never imposed.

Gareth Callaway isn’t looking for life in prison for drunk drivers. Enough time has passed since his wife’s tragic death to realize that while it may satisfy a wish for revenge, it’s not justice.

But neither is five years which isn’t five years at all.

“There’s a line at which you have to say we are going to punish this person, not just rehabilitate him. I really believe that we’ve forgotten how to do that.”

Instead, there are ridiculously low sentences which aren’t even fully served. “What right-minded individual can think that five years in prison — which isn’t even five years — is an adequate debt to society?”

In the last two weeks alone, we’ve had the horrific crash that killed three little children and their grandfather; impaired driving charges laid against a female bus driver who allegedly had open liquor beside her when she rear-ended an SUV in Pickering and more impaired charges for a Brampton man after a head-on collision in Brampton sent a woman to a trauma centre.

“What we’re doing isn’t working, is it?” Callaway sighs.

He wants to see more police spot checks and tougher sentencing. “Neither of which will happen. You’ll keep phoning, I’ll keep answering, nothing will change. We both know that,” he says.

“It’s nine years since my wife got killed and I can’t honestly say it’s got any better.”

His mother-in-law shares his pessimism. The man who ran down her daughter is free and going about his life. Like Prosa, he’s never apologized to the family he ripped apart. “To watch my grandkids go through all these years without their mother, it almost destroyed me,” says Micheline Cassidy. “Not only are we sentenced to life but it’s compounded by the leniency of the court system.”

So what lies ahead for Marco Muzzo, an alleged first-time offender charged with driving drunk and killing the three Neville-Lake children and their grandpa?

Well, what do you think?

Source: Stratford Beacon Herald


 

Last updated on: 2015-10-21 | Link to this post