EDITORIAL: No rush to judgment

In a perfect world, last week’s court decisions relating to two tragic motor vehicle accidents might fall short of the mark.

This, of course, is not a perfect world.

If it were, we would never have lost White Rock’s Marilyn Laursen to a pedestrian hit-and-run during an uptown high-speed police pursuit. And we would never have lost South Surrey’s Jim Neiss to a head-on collision with a speeding dump truck on 16 Avenue.

All we can settle for, in our imperfect world, is ensuring those responsible for their deaths are suitably held responsible.

In the first case, prosecutor Steven Black last week told Judge Paul Dohm in a preliminary hearing that the Crown would not proceed on a charge of dangerous driving causing death against White Rock Const. David Bickle.

Before judging the decision ourselves, it’s significant to note that fleeing driver Kyle Brandon Danyliuk – the one who actually struck and killed Laursen – has admitted to his crime and is now serving a two-year sentence.

It’s also significant to note that an independent Vancouver Police Department investigation alleged the officer’s “actions and failure to follow the numerous federal and provincial guidelines regarding pursuit driving” contributed to Laursen’s death.

But perhaps what might be most significant is that Bickle will still go to trial on a second, lesser charge of dangerous driving causing bodily harm – the result of injuries sustained by the driver of another car struck during the pursuit.

If the officer did indeed commit an infraction, he will ultimately be held responsible – but with lesser consequences.

In the second case last week, the same judge handed a 14-month jail sentence to Glen Edward Theriault, driver of the truck that crossed a double-yellow line and smashed into Neiss’s SUV.

While Theriault’s lawyer argued that imprisoning the 65-year-old would not serve anybody – least of all Theriault and his family – Dohm ruled that the sentence had to be enough to “strongly denounce” reckless behaviour.

Both of these cases hinge on apparent errors in judgment that had fatal consequences.

It’s true the potential severity of punishment in each case is not likely to please everyone. Some might even denounce our justice system for giving what they perceive as mere slaps on the wrist for those who break the rules.

But if the outcomes gives pause to anyone likely to make similar mistakes, the cause of justice – however imperfectly – will have been served.

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