Canadian Underwriter

Judge in Calgary drunk driving case worried about attitude to impaired driving

September 16, 2019   by THE CANADIAN PRESS

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CALGARY – A Calgary judge who has ordered a lengthy prison term for a woman convicted in a drunk-driving crash that killed a young man says Canadians are not getting the message about the dangers of driving impaired.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Keith Yamauchi made the comment Thursday when he sentenced Jaylene Lagrelle to three-and-a-half years behind bars, with a recommendation she spend most of that time in a Saskatchewan healing lodge.

The 30-year-old mother of three had earlier pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death and four counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm.

The court heard Lagrelle’s blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit when her sport-utility vehicle went through a red light in northeast Calgary in October 2016 and slammed into the passenger side of a car.

Shiraz Shermohammad, who was 19, died at the scene and his parents and autistic sister, along with a passenger in Lagrelle’s vehicle, were injured.

Shiraz was a passenger in the car when the crash happened as he and his family were returning home from a night at the movies.

“They continue to consume intoxicating substances and get behind the wheel of these killing machines, ” Yamauchi said of the difficulty in getting the message across about impaired driving.

The judge also said he could not ignore a previous impaired driving conviction against Lagrelle, saying the fatal crash was not an impulsive act and does not excuse the crimes she committed.

He recommended she serve most of her sentence in the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge in Maple Creek.

“He (the judge) is giving a lot of weight to restorative justice … this is a really well-reasoned, logical decision,” defence lawyer Alain Hepner said outside court.

“(Lagrelle’s) life was just like I said in court, a volcano of alcoholism. That’s where she came from.”

Records show Lagrelle was in and out of foster care until she was 16 years old. She reported being the victim of physical and sexual abuse. She also lost both her father and stepfather to alcohol-related illnesses.

The court heard Lagrelle tried to blame an unknown third party who she initially said was driving the SUV. She called police two weeks after the crash to say she was behind the wheel.

She apologized to the Shermohammad family, who said the sentence is not enough.

‘My son is not coming back,” said Shiraz’s father Karim.

“My son is gone. It changed my whole family’s life.” (CTV Calgary)

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