The Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments Wednesday over the sentencing of Richard Suter, a man convicted of crashing his SUV into a restaurant patio and killing a two-year-old boy.

Not at question were the facts of the case.

Suter pleaded guilty in 2015 to a charge of refusing to provide a breath sample following a collision causing death.

In that collision, Suter — while arguing with his wife — mistakenly stepped on the accelerator rather than the brake and smashed his SUV through a restaurant patio, striking several people and killing two-year-old Geo Mounsef in 2013.

While in a holding cell, Suter spoke with a lawyer who advised him not to provide a breath sample to police, advice Suter followed.

Sage Morin, with Jason Quinney, is the mother of toddler Geo Mounsef who was killed when an SUV crashed into a patio at Ric’s Grill. She reacts at the courthouse to the decision to grant bail to Richard Suter, 62, the man facing impaired driving causing death charges in Edmonton on May 24, 2013. 

Citing mitigating factors including a mistake of law in following the lawyer’s advice and injuries suffered both physically and emotionally from public outrage and an act of vigilante justice — where Suter was kidnapped, beaten and had his thumb cut off — Suter was initially handed a four-month sentence and a 30-month driving suspension.

The Crown appealed this sentence, and the Alberta Court of Appeal increased Suter’s punishment, imposing a sentence of 26 months behind bars, which Suter then appealed to the Supreme Court.

Suter served 9-1/2 months before making bail pending his Supreme Court appeal.

On behalf of the Crown, Joanne Dartana argued Wednesday that Suter’s refusal to provide a breath sample was based in strategy rather than honest belief: “On the evidence, the sentencing judge could not have found that the appellant had an honest belief in the lawfulness of his actions.”

But Dino Bottos argued his client refused the breath sample because of a lawyer’s bad advice, and that Suter had been “baffled by jargon.”

“Mr. Suter drew a mistaken inference based on the lawyer’s advice, which was ‘Don’t blow,’” said Bottos.

Also at issue is the degree to which acts of vigilante justice and public shame should be taken into account as mitigating factors on sentencing.

“Mr. Suter not only suffered public shame, vitriol, hatred and was vilified, but what happens when that crystallizes into an actual episode of serious vigilante justice, when the fact is that crystallizes into giving a pound of flesh for having committed the crime?” Bottos said, arguing for a reduction in his client’s sentence.

There is no set date for the Supreme Court to render its decision.

Source: Edmonton Journal


Last updated on: 2017-10-27 | Link to this post