Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hell Yes

I like the notion of additional punishment for street racing...

Appeals court gives Toronto street racers additional punishment

Globe and Mail Update

A sentence imposed on two reckless drivers who killed a Toronto cab driver in 2006 were far too light to reflect the dangers of irresponsible driving and the horror of the carnage they caused, the Ontario Court of Appeal said Thursday.

In a 3-0 ruling, the Court said that the conditional sentences meted out to Wing-Piao Dumani Ross and Alexander Ryazanov amounted to “merely being grounded without driving privileges.”

“The respondents continue to go to school and work,” Madam Justice Gloria Epstein wrote. “Now that the first year is over, they have complete freedom during the day and can even go out after curfew with a parent's note.”

The Court tacked on a year of house arrest, barred the two men from driving for seven years, and issued a strong statement to would-be street-racers.

“When young people are granted the privilege of driving they take on a grave responsibility,” Judge Epstein wrote. “When that privilege is abused through irresponsible conduct – in this case conduct that took a man's life – the loss of the privilege must be felt, both by the perpetrators and by others who would engage in similar conduct.”

She said that conditional sentences are intended to serve as a punishment – all the more so, when a tragedy has galvanized the community and other young people are watching.

The lengthy driving prohibitions “convey the message that conduct similar to that which occurred in this case will not be tolerated,” Judge Epstein said, writing on behalf of Mr. Justice John Laskin and Madam Justice Janet Simmons.

“Where, as here, two young men made a conscious decision to drive in a dangerous fashion and caused the death of an innocent member of our community, the sentencing objectives of denunciation and general deterrence must be paramount.”

The victim in the gruesome accident – Mr. Khan – was a 46-year-old immigrant from Pakistan who was just three days shy of becoming a Canadian citizen. His cab was rammed at high speed as he attempted to make a left turn off Mount Pleasant Road on Jan. 24, 2006.

“It was estimated that Mr. Ryazanov was travelling at about 119 kilometres per hour at the moment of impact,” the Court said Thursday. “The momentum of the impact forced Mr. Khan's car north over the raised concrete curb and left the driver's side wrapped around a utility pole.”

Mr. Ross and Mr. Ryazanov, 18-year-old graduates of exclusive private school at the time of the accident, had been racing their parents Mercedes-Benz automobiles – at times, alongside one another – on their way to Mr. Ryazanov's house.

They reached speeds of up to 140 kilometres per hour as they negotiated the numerous curves and grades along the route. The posted speed limit is 60 kilometres per hour.

Sentences caused media uproar

Coming amid a debate over the proliferation of street-racing and reckless driving, the sentences caused a sensation, fuelling radio talk shows and igniting angry editorials.

In sentencing the two last year, Ontario Court Judge John Moore gave each man a conditional sentence of two years less a day, followed by two years' probation. He also imposed a four-year driving prohibition and 150 hours of community service work on each.

The first year of their conditional sentence was to be served under house arrest, followed by a curfew for the second year.

On appeal, Crown counsel Robert Hubbard and Matthew Asma argued that Judge Moore made a fundamental error by not properly considering the perils of street racing as well as the fact that the defendants made a conscious choice to drive dangerously.

However, the appeal court ruled Thursday that Judge Moore did take both factors into account in his sentence – even if he did not explicitly state it.

“He acknowledged that the respondents were travelling at speeds of more than two times the legal limit, while switching from one lane to another and that this conduct continued over a distance of one and a half kilometres,” Judge Epstein said.

She also rejected the Crown's contention that Judge Moore failed to consider the fact that the friends were street-racing as an aggravating factor in his sentence.

“In any event, I do not regard it as important to assign a label to the respondents' conduct in order to determine the appropriate sentence,” Judge Epstein said.

The Crown faced an high and unusual hurdle in appealing the original sentences of 12 months of house arrest and two years' probation, since they had pleaded guilty to dangerous driving as part of a plea-bargain.

Defence lawyers Edward Greenspan, Brian Greenspan, Seth Weinstein and David Tice argued strenuously at the appeal that the Crown explicitly agreed during plea negotiations not to appeal the ultimate sentence.

They said that the defendants pleaded guilty based on that understanding, and it would be an abuse of the court system for the Crown to renege on the agreement.

The defence team warned that any attempt to override that agreement would tarnish the justice system and potentially lead to a collapse of the plea-bargaining system.

Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Asma conceded that the downtown Toronto Crown Attorney's office had, in fact, agreed not to appeal. However, they said that did not preclude the Attorney General himself from appealing.

The Court of Appeal agreed Thursday, saying that it was within the Attorney-General's power to go ahead. In fact, the Court said that neither side in a plea-bargain can truly sign away any future right to appeal, so they should be wary of even attempting to do so in future.

“I reject the respondents' argument that to permit the Crown to appeal in these circumstances would lead to a collapse of the plea bargaining system,” Judge Epstein added.

The Court also said that allowing the Crown to appeal would not constitute an abuse of the court process.

“Thus, while I accept that granting leave to appeal could appear unfair, it does not amount to a level of unfairness that is contrary to the interests of justice,” it said.

“Granting leave to appeal would not violate the conscience of the community. On the contrary, as I have mentioned, the error in the sentences imposed is of a nature such as to require the Attorney General to appeal to ensure that the administration of justice is fairly and properly carried out.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i like the 7 year driving ban. there should possibly be an automatic 10 year driving prohibition for every street racing conviction, as well as automatic 30 days jail time even for youth.