The Sentence

This is not a pretty story. I will be spare in the details.

In July 2009 five Ottawa cyclists were victims of a hit-and-run. They were in a lane, cycling in line to breakfast in Pakenham 40km away. It was a clear, bright Sunday morning. The driver fell asleep at the wheel.

Yesterday was sentencing day. The driver (who turned himself in 5 hours later) was sentenced to two years less a day and his driver’s license suspended for a year.

In her sentencing, the judge took into account the fact that this was a first time offence; that the accused turned himself in; that the testimony regarding alcohol use during an all-night Saturday party was not beyond reasonable doubt.

The victims are now free to pursue civil damages should they so choose.

Was this the right sentence? Where the degrees of punishment, deterrence and retribution appropriate?

The lives of the victims, one in particular, were devastated. No sentence can undo that damage.

Emotionally I wanted to see the book thrown at the driver, but it would serve no practical purpose.

Two years is not trivial. The family of the driver, a blue collar immigrant, has suffered financially and will continue to do so during his incarceration and thereafter from civil litigation.

There are no winners here. Sentencing is an imperfect art. If I remove my personal prejudices as a cyclist, I think the judge probably struck a fair balance.