A legal expert says the punishment for the truck driver responsible for the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash will put Canada’s sentencing provisions to the test.
Jennifer Quaid, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, said she believes it will be difficult for a judge to arrive at a proportionate sentence for Jaskirat Singh Sidhu.
“It’s a real test of our sentencing regime,” said Quaid. “This is sort of the nightmare scenario where you have a mixture of … factors that point in different directions if you look at our sentencing law.”
Sidhu admitted he caused the collision that killed 16 people and injured 13 when he barrelled through a stop sign in his transport truck at a rural Saskatchewan intersection last April. Sidhu was not hurt.
He pleaded guilty to 29 dangerous driving charges and is to be sentenced March 22.
In a sentencing hearing this week, the Crown argued Sidhu should serve 10 years in prison and be banned from driving for 10 years. The defence, although citing cases with shorter sentences, did not propose a specific alternative.
Judge Inez Cardinal’s task will be to find a sentence that strikes a balance between the consequences of the offence and the blameworthiness of the offender, said Quaid.
While Sidhu pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, it was not a hit and run, he wasn’t impaired, nor was he speeding, or texting and driving, Quaid noted.
On the other hand, she said, the outcome of his actions was horrific.
“On the one side you got terrible consequences. On the other side you have a mistake that is not the worst of the mistakes,” she said.
“What’s the right answer?”
She believes the Crown is taking a hard line in proposing a 10-year prison sentence.
“It doesn’t seem proportionate to his moral blameworthiness,” said Toronto criminal defence lawyer Daniel Brown. “It doesn’t seem proportionate to his actions.”
Brown said determining a proper sentence for Sidhu will be challenging because the judge lacks comparable cases.
He also said the typical signs of bad driving are missing. That makes it tough to craft a sentence that discourages people from a specific action, such as drinking and driving.
“How do we deter other people from missing stop signs?” Brown said.
“He wasn’t distracted by his cellphone,” he said. ”He simply missed the traffic signal.”
Both Quaid and Brown said another significant factor Cardinal must weigh is Sidhu’s guilty plea.
“This is a person who has exactly the reaction that we hope … every person convicted or found guilty of a crime would have — to have this deep reflection, this absolute acceptance of responsibility,” Quaid said.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press