Last week in this space I ripped politicians a new one and I have heard a lot of people say they agree with what I had to say. There have been some things that have happened lately that warranted the tongue lashing, but by no means do I intend to make it a weekly ritual to point an accusatory finger.
In fact, the opposite is quite true. I want to use this column in a positive manner and acknowledge good deeds and behaviours rather than harp on the negatives.
Except for this one last time!
The news this week that the man responsible for the death of local businessman Ben Darchuk receiving a two-years-less-a-day sentence not only shocked me, but the judge’s comments during the hearing scared me.
Judge Morris Baniak, in addressing the court, said that he referred to previous case law in making his decision and other mitigating circumstances such as a demonstration of remorse and a voluntary guilty plea by the man charged contributed to the length of the sentence.
In essence, details of how someone’s life is taken are not a factor that is weighed in a decision of this kind because in the past other courts have set a precedent so every case has to be treated the same? The way I see it, not every case is the same, but according to case law they are treated the same.
Someone dealing drugs or has illegal images on their computer warrants a stronger sentence than taking someone’s life? Defrauding people of money is a more heinous crime than ending one’s life?
There is something really wrong with this and I just can’t imagine how the Darchuk family feels. What really made this particular judgement irritate me was the fact that the man was not only prohibited from driving for three years (does that include the two years he is in jail?), but he was assessed a $100 victim surcharge. What does that mean? Is he the victim for going to jail or does he give the Darchuk family $100? That can’t be true since the Darchuks were denied the restitution they were seeking when the loss of their vehicle and boat incurred in the crash were not covered by insurance due to the circumstances of the loss.
So, what would have been the right punishment?
I honestly can’t say because nothing will bring Ben Darchuk back. Defense lawyer Mark Brayford told the media following the sentence this week that tragedies created by drunk driving can’t be solved by sentences. I never thought I would agree with a defence lawyer, but when put in those terms, Mr. Brayford is absolutely right.
Drunk driving won’t be prevented by putting someone in jail, but the length of sentence given to someone who is found guilty of such a crime might be a deterrent. Two years less a day is an insult to the victim’s family and the chance of rehabilitation, which jail time is supposed to provide, will never have an opportunity to take hold.
New provincial laws allowing for liquor sales to be sold at movie theatres and spas, along with lowering the legal drinking age to 18, certainly won’t help prevent a problem that continues to be on the rise.
There is so much more public awareness about drunk driving and more and more promotion of alternate ways of getting home while out having a drink than when I was growing up and yet there seems to be far more tragic results.
I can’t plead innocence to never having gotten behind the wheel when I shouldn’t have and I thank my lucky stars each and every day that I never hurt someone. Somewhere along the way I grew up and listened to what was being said about the effects of drinking and driving. Hopefully that message continues to get through to others, but unfortunately, there is no one specific cure for this tragedy. Two years less a day certainly isn’t the answer.
Last week another unfortunate drunk-driving accident took an innocent victim in Prince Albert and during a television interview, the obviously frustrated father of the victim said that the person responsible for his daughter’s death will likely get two years for the incident. That was before the sentence was passed this week on the person responsible for taking Ben Darchuk’s life. With case law being used as a precedent, there isn’t much to look forward to when that case goes to court.
Dave Leaderhouse is a reporter with the Prince Albert Daily Herald.