I was reading about this latest case of impaired driving causing death over the weekend with a heavy heart. Timely since our own impaired driving causing death case continues this week. This afternoon we are back in court where a blood analysis expert is scheduled to testify as to the alcohol level of the medical blood. In reading about the Carol Berner case and the Defence’s perspective etc, I am once again left astounded by the inadequacies of our criminal justice system.
On Friday November 12, Carol Berner was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison and was banned from driving for five years for driving impaired causing the death of a four-year old girl from British Columbia, Canada. The little girl was struck down while she fed a horse alongside the road. The judge in the case said that impaired driving causing death is “one of the most serious offences in the Criminal Code” as he handed down her sentence.
Berner’s lawyer said they would appeal the decision as being too “harsh” for someone with no prior history. Give me a break?! She got drunk, got behind the wheel of her car, and ran down a family killing a four-year old – she should absolutely get jail time.
And, did you know that according to MADD Canada, data indicates a person would have to drive impaired, on average, once a week, every week, for more than THREE years before being charged with impaired driving offence, and for more than SIX years before being convicted?
Given that information, it’s far more likely that the woman may have had no prior “criminal” history only because she hadn’t been caught yet. And regardless of prior offences, they don’t give you second chances when you commit first or second degree murder for the “first” time.
Outside of court, the little girl’s family said they were hoping for a much harsher sentence, around 10 years. And I agree. Impaired driving death is MURDER yet it continues to be treated as something far less.
According to MADD Canada, impairment-related crashes continue to be the leading criminal cause of death in Canada. In 2006, it claimed an estimated 1,278 lives as opposed to 606 homicides in the same year. Yet, ONLY 137 of those drivers were charged with impaired driving causing death and only 36 were convicted. Can you imagine if those were our charge/conviction rates for the 606 homicides?
Similarly, there were 75,374 impairment-related crash injuries in 2006, yet only 842 drivers were charged with impaired driving causing bodily harm and only 233 convictions were recorded. Can you imagine if those were our assault and assault causing bodily harm conviction rates?
Impaired driving causing death is 100% preventable and rates will only begin to lower when we as a country stand up and demand it of our government! Right now, the system is driven by case-law, which is actually impeding police from doing their job; tying the hands of our Prosecutors to gain convictions; creating any number of loop holes for perpetrators to escape prosecution; and leaving the families of its victims with no sense of justice with inadequate sentencing given the seriousness of the crime.
Our government needs to step in and take action NOW! The Criminal Code of Canada needs to amended to give police a greater ability to work towards preventing these types of accidents from happening in the first place; to close off some of the jaw-dropping loop holes that allow perpetrators, of the most serious offences I might add, to escape not only conviction, but being charged in the first place; and to prevent through deterrence with much harsher penalties.
Change is needed to save lives!