Marco Muzzo jailed for 10 years, but has sentence served as deterrent?

Babies Killed

Harrison, Milly and Daniel Neville-Lake (left to right)

"For as long as (Marco) Muzzo has been alive, courts have warned about the consequences of impaired driving," Justice Michelle Fuerst began, as she concluded her sentencing in front of a packed, tearful Newmarket courtroom. "Yet the message escaped him. It is important that it does not escape others."

This was one of the judge's most powerful lines, which acted as partial justification for sending Marco Muzzo to prison for 10 years. He was made an example of, considering the "enormous harm caused," and handed the harshest sentence ever doled out in Canada for a first-offence impaired driving charge, with the aim of deterring others from following in his footsteps.

Given the tragedy and outrage that followed his behaviour, some applauded the action. Others found the sentence too light.

Looking back, one year on from the tragedy that claimed four people's lives — Daniel, 9, Harrison, 5, and Milly, 2, Neville-Lake, and Gary Neville, 65 — it seems unclear if this decision has served as a deterrent.

After all, the "message" Justice Fuerst speaks of continues to escape York Region residents on a weekly basis. As a result, 2016 might just see the most impaired charges laid in the past five years.

York Regional Police statistics show there was a 43-per-cent increase in charges between 2012, when there were 877, and 2015, when there were 1,255. So far in 2016, there have been 1,188.

On Jan. 17, just months after Marco Muzzo crashed into the Neville-Lake vehicle, the vehicle of Newmarket's Tara Gawlik collided with that of Michael Holden, 26, who was going to see his mother in Newmarket.

Holden, 26, died. Gawlik, 36, who driving a Kia Rondo with three children in the car, 13-year-old twins and a 12-year-old, was charged with impaired driving causing death. The case is still before the courts.

Tragedies that results from impaired driving can take many forms.

This summer, Ryan Lefler, 24, was killed when his motorcycle left the roadway in Keswick and Lauren Mueller, 25, died when her pickup truck crashed into a tree in East Gwillimbury. Both were impaired.

In the year following the Neville-Lake tragedy, we've heard of five incidents in York Region of parents being charged with impaired driving with their children in the vehicles. In one, a nine-year-old boy called police about his 52-year-old mother drinking and driving in Newmarket with him in the car.

Also disturbing are the charges brought against the very individuals who are supposed to be attempting to stop us from drinking and driving.

On Jan. 11, off-duty York police Const. Colin Smith was found driving the wrong way on Hwy. 400, resulting in his second impaired driving charge in the last few years.

Toronto police Const. Andrew Ford was caught "driving erratically" on Green Lane in East Gwillimbury and charged just weeks after the Neville-Lake tragedy.

Kathy Mitchell, president of MADD York Region, who lost her 23-year-old niece, Sharon's Ashley Fogal, when Fogal's car was struck by a drunk driver on Aug. 11, 2011, says the examples listed above are disheartening, especially knowing the pain the decision to drink and drive can cause.

"It's very frustrating," she said. "To have this young couple (the Neville-Lakes) who have created a family to just face that devastation of losing everything. It's just frustrating that people continue to have no regard for other people in society. You would think that the message would be clear because of such a tragedy, but unfortunately, people are of the mindset that it's not going to happen to them or they're invincible or they're not going to get caught."

She remembers quite clearly the moment she found out about the Neville-Lake tragedy, driving home from the MADD conference in Toronto on that clear, fall day.

"Every day, I think of Jennifer and Ed and what they must be going through because every day, I think of my sister and my mom and my niece and my nephew," she added. "It just never goes away."

This weekend, she will once again head to the national conference, surrounded by other victims of this crime that refuses to go away.

Source: The Hamilton Spectator


Last updated on: 2016-10-07 | Link to this post