When Drivers Kill

Scales of JusticeI've often thought to myself over the years that if I ever wanted to kill someone the best way to do it would be to drive over them. I would wait until I found them stepping into a crosswalk and make sure that I hit them while I was turning onto the street they were crossing. I would then screech to a halt, return and scream "Oh no, I didn't see them, I'm sorry!"

If I planned it just right, I might get away with a traffic ticket and have my insurer pay the bills.

Of course I'm being facetious but the thought runs through my mind whenever I watch or read a news story where a driving error results in a death and the offending driver is convicted of a Motor Vehicle Act offence because of it. This week's sentencing of Conrad Wetten by Judge K. L. Whonnock for the death of Shinder Kirk near Nanaimo in December 2018 is another example.

Testimony heard at the trial supported that Wetten was not impaired, was not distracted by a cell phone and was not speeding or driving recklessly in the moments leading up to the crash.

Mr. Wetten was fined $1,500 and will receive 6 penalty points. The judge declined to prohibit Mr. Wetten from driving because he needs his driver's licence to work.

Mr. Wetten is also facing a civil suit for liability because of the collision. Depending on his collision history and coverage, it is possible that he will only pay the same amount that the rest of us contribute to ICBC for his error. We will all share monetary the cost while family and friends share the additional emotional burden.

Most people hearing this news are likely to ask why hadn't the driver been charged with homicide?

The Criminal Code of Canada says that homicide occurs when someone directly or indirectly, by any means, causes the death of a human being. Homicide is not an offence unless it is culpable, meaning that the death is caused by an unlawful act, criminal negligence, causing someone to kill themselves by threats, fear of violence or deception or wilfully frightening them, in the case of a child or sick person.

Murder is culpable homicide where the person who causes the death of a human being means to cause his death or means to cause him bodily harm that he knows is likely to cause his death, and is reckless whether death ensues or not. However, murder may be reduced to manslaughter if the person who committed it did so in the heat of passion caused by sudden provocation.

When I originally wrote this story back in 2009, I used an example of a trial where a driver struck another vehicle and then returned to the scene to deliberately run over a passenger who had exited the other vehicle. The offending driver was culpable and charged with criminal negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle causing death.

The maximum penalty here is the same as it is for murder, life in prison. The main difference is the minimum sentence imposed by each of these offences. The choice of which charges to prefer belongs to Crown Counsel after looking at all the evidence in the context of current case law and having decided on whether there is a substantial possibility of conviction.

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Tim ends his column: "The choice of which charges to prefer belongs to Crown Counsel after looking at all the evidence in the context of current case law and having decided on whether there is a substantial possibility of conviction."
And that is something I cannot understand in B.C. law enforcement! It is the duty of the Police to investigate, gather all the evidence and lay the appropriate charge(s) accordingly. The Crown's job is (should be) to vigorously and properly prosecute the case prepared by the police - NOT to usurp, second guess or reduce charges laid by skilled, professional Police Officers!
The presiding Judicial Official (sometimes with a Jury) has the job of determining guilt (or not) and passing appropriate sentence.
These three branches of the system should be kept clearly separate
and free of all undue influence, fear or favour! - Ted

Ted ... you took the words right off my face!  I am 100% in agreement with you.  I am disgusted that cases are not taken to court based on "likelihood of conviction" ... it is not the place of Crown to "predict" conviction, it is their duty to try cases, vigourously, on the grounds for conviction, it is the duty of judge/jury to decide guilt or not.  Shame on Canadian judiciary, it is in a deep state of disrepute.

The laws have to be changed, this driver you refer to is still on the streets. In the news his driving record is questionable, so why is he not behind bars? A comment on your experience with drivers in Montreal and stop signs. I can tell you, in our area of Trail, Castlegar and Rossland I would bet if one in ten stop at a stop sign that would be amazing. Hell most people hardly slow down, I have seen people with children in the car practicing the same dumb moves. Turning right on red lights, same thing nobody makes a full stop anymore. Pretty frustrating for us who care, but if I was to report these incidents to the RCMP like I did in the past I would get writers cramp filling out these reports.

I too live in the kootenays, and it is a daily struggle to make it home safe...

as the snow pilled up people became a little bit more cautious, but as soon as the snow was gone from roadways i have nearly t-bone a number of vehicles as they run a stop sign or turn left in front of me...

one person had the gaul to flip me off as they drove past even though they nearly were my hood ornament...

4-way stops are more like 4-way yeilds...

the worst intersections in the west kootenays are all in Castlegar, and it is all due to careless driving, people just dont care out here...