In early March, Road Rules wrote about ‘the Jeep driver’ with a blood alcohol level three times the legal driving limit whose vehicle “T-boned” a minivan killing four of the six occupants: a grandfather and his three grandchildren, siblings all, aged two, five, and nine. The investigation revealed that the Jeep driver, having braked for almost four seconds, struck at 85 km/h—hence the indication is that the vehicle speed limit was significantly in excess of the speed limit.
Having pleaded guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death, four counts of driving over the legal limit, four counts of dangerous driving causing death, two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm, two counts of driving above the legal limit causing bodily harm, and two counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm, on February 24th, in court in Newmarket, Ontario, the driver was remanded in custody for sentencing on March 29, 2016.
The result: a 10 year sentence with credit for the time he has spent in custody—meaning nine years/four months with eligibility for parole after serving a third of his sentence. He has also been banned from driving for 12 years.
In handing down this sentence, described in media reports as “one of the harshest in recent legal memory for impaired driving causing death,” Ontario Superior Court Justice Michelle Fuerst was quoted as saying, “The high degree of Mr. Muzzo’s moral blameworthiness, combined with the enormous and far-reaching consequences of his offences, set this case apart from others.” Media reports also noted that before giving her reasons, Justice Fuerst said she had received unsolicited messages from members of the public, which she filed with the court and said she ignored for the purposes of sentencing.
This sentence rejected the defence request for eight years while acceding to the Crown’s request for a 10 to 12 year sentence based on the principles of denunciation and general deterrence or, as one report put it, “basically to inspire fear in other potential drunk drivers by putting (the driver) with the worst of the worst.” Reports also note that the Crown prosecutor acknowledged the driver’s remorse, his early guilty pleas, and, except for 10 speeding tickets, his clean criminal record, and his steady employment and deep family and social support.
While together these factors predict a low risk for re-offending, the Crown argued they must be given less weight in a case like this, “at the most extreme end of the criminal drunk-driving spectrum.” The defence counsel’s argument for an eight year sentence was based on a 2011 ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal in the case of R. v. Kummer, confirming that driver’s eight year sentence for killing three people in a drunk driving crash. Judge Fuerst reportedly acknowledged “justice is elusive, because nothing can repair the damage (this driver) did.”
Online comments and printed letters show people struggling with balancing what is appropriate punishment for this particular offender and what sentence would deter others from such conduct. We hear that many say the Canadian parole system is too lenient. Some call for lifetime driving bans in cases of drunk driving causing death or injury.