If such sentences don’t help reduce drinking and driving numbers, then what is the point?


Jennifer Neville-Lake shows a picture book she made, including photos of her children and the accident scene.

Marco Muzzo was sentenced to 10 years in prison for wiping out an entire generation of the Neville-Lake family, but if such sentences don’t help reduce drinking and driving numbers, then what is the point?

This is the conversation that many members of Canada’s judicial community are having in the wake of the sentence Muzzo received Tuesday.

Although this is the longest sentence handed down to an impaired driver without a history of offences in Ontario, police and lawyers are wondering what needs to change outside the courtroom to make a dent in the numbers.

The reality is, the numbers make for ugly reading.

A statistician with York Regional Police found that between 2013 and 2015, the number of drunk drivers caught by the service rose 43 per cent, from 795 to 1,140.

More recently, just as Muzzo’s sentence was being handed down Tuesday, York Regional Police reported a “disappointing” long weekend of impaired driving on our roads.

Thirteen drivers were arrested and charged with alcohol and drug-related criminal offences between March 24 at 11 p.m. and March 28 at 1:40 a.m.

Criminal defence lawyer Ari Goldkind, who often works in York Region, said Muzzo is not his main concern. He’d rather focus on the countless drunk drivers who walk into the Newmarket courthouse daily before having their “wrists slapped” with a $1,000 fine and a one-year driving ban.

“What happened to Marco Muzzo was the equivalent of a public lynching,” he said.

“We all point our fingers at Marco Muzzo as if he woke up in bed and decided to go out to be Paul Bernardo. But, in reality, the only difference between him and another drunk driver is he had the misfortune of plowing into the beautiful Neville-Lake family.”

He said rather than engage in a public show court, like he contends occurred with Muzzo in the media and on “anti-social media”, the public need to shame the “10,000 other drunk drivers” in our court system.

To do this, Goldkind says two things need to happen.

The first is that the government needs to lower the drinking level from 0.8 per cent blood alcohol level, which drivers are currently allowed in their systems, to zero.

Goldkind is not the only one who thinks this is the obvious next step for the provincial government.

York police Const. Andy Pattenden said removing the decision about whether to have “one or two” drinks before getting behind the wheel would go a long way toward lowering drinking and driving numbers.

“If you could remove that decision, it would make it an easier choice for people,” he said. “As it stands, the law gives some people the ability to have some, but others too much.”

Const. Pattenden said the system we currently have is often left up to doubt, relying on citizens to decide whether they have had to much to drink.

But, he said, the reality is there are so many factors that go into deciding — including whether someone has eaten, is hydrated, their weight and height – it’s difficult for anyone to do so.

He said the reality is if hearing and watching the details of Jennifer Neville-Lake’s story doesn’t stop people from drinking and driving, which it clearly hasn’t, in York Region at least, then what will?

“Every person in York Region knows this story,” he added. “And still every weekend in York Region a significant number of impaired people continue to make that decision knowing the worst possible outcome. Then what will it take?

The second suggestion by Goldkind is to threaten each and every impaired driver with incarceration.

“The message is not getting through and police don’t have the resources,” he said. “As crude an instrument as jail is, I would say prison is on the table until behaviour changes.”

Muzzo is expected to spend upwards of three years behind bars when time served and parole are factored in to the sentence.

Muzzo, who pleaded guilty last month, is also banned from driving for 12 years after his time in custody.

The collision killed Daniel Neville-Lake, 9, his brother Harrison, 5, their sister Milly, 2, and their grandfather, Gary Neville, 65.

Source: York Region Metroland News


Last updated on: 2016-04-20 | Link to this post