Those waiting for the outcome of a court case involving the crash that led to the death of West Shore RCMP officer Const. Sarah Beckett will have to wait another week.
Judge Ron Lamperson is scheduled to give his sentencing ruling on July 14. He will spend the next week poring over submissions made by both Crown counsel and the defence during the two-day-long hearing for Kenneth Jacob Fenton. The hearing concluded Friday.
It was another long, emotional day for those gathered at Western Communities Court. The family and friends of Beckett were visibly upset with some of the arguments offered by defence, with some storming out of the courtroom throughout the day.
Fenton, who pled to charges of impaired driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death from the April 2016 crash, choked back tears as he read from a prepared statement.
“I am overwhelmed with my poor decision-making that has caused so much devastation to all the families involved in this and the community,” Fenton said. “I know it has caused unimaginable pain for so many people and I apologize to everyone hurt by this tragedy.”
He noted the accident is the first thing on his mind when he wakes up and the last at the end of the day and that he never wanted to hurt anyone or leave a family without a mother.
“I was in the wrong and an innocent person had to pay the price. I would trade places with Sarah if I could … Finally, I want to say that I fully accept responsibility for what I have done and I accept the punishment that I deserve.”
Crown counsel has asked for three to five years of imprisonment and an eight-to-10-year driving prohibition upon release, while Fenton’s lawyers have requested three years and a five-year driving prohibition that would start at the time of sentencing.
Defence lawyer Dale Marshall opened the hearing by noting how much pain this tragedy has also caused Fenton’s family and how they will be forced to carry a stigma with them for the rest of their lives. He was quick to note this wasn’t meant to downplay any of the pain and suffering experienced by Beckett’s family.
Marshall said Fenton and his parents were verbally accosted outside of the courtroom at the end of the first day of sentencing by an individual suggesting Fenton follow the two friends he was mourning the night of the crash and commit suicide.
“That’s the gauntlet his parents are forced to endure,” Marshall said, adding the family business and property have also been damaged. It has reached to the point where his mother doesn’t want to leave the house.
Defence lawyer Dale Marshall : pic.twitter.com/Xe15fiLD22— Katherine Engqvist (@kengqvist) July 7, 2017
Fenton’s driving record was also quick to be brought up, while defence noted while there were several infractions, there were none between an incident in 2010 and the crash in 2016.
That night, Fenton joined friends to mourn a close friend that had committed suicide. Marshall said Fenton was also struggling with the suicide of his best friend three years prior.
“They were mitigating their grief with beer … he was going to sleep on the couch at a friend’s place but an argument ensued and he left.”
The judge questioned Fenton’s history with alcohol, noting “a person who was not a seasoned drinker would not be able to drive a car in a straight line.”
He added that the only thing that came to the pursuing officer’s attention was that Fenton’s rear lights were not on.
Marshall clarified that Fenton has recognized he had a problem with alcohol and stopped drinking in September of 2016 and has been receiving counselling.
Marshall noted it’s not unusual for a person in their 20s to not recognize they have a problem, especially if they’re a “weekend warrior” as Fenton was referred to, or someone who only drinks occasionally but overindulges when they do.
Lamperson noted Fenton’s grief-fuelled drinking would not necessarily be a mitigating factor. “It’s one think to drink your face off … It’s another to drink your face off and get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.”
He also questioned the defence submission that the impact on Beckett’s family should be weighted as an aggravating factor due to the fact that is a common element in relevant case law.
“Had Sarah Beckett not had children yet there would be different consequences… she wouldn’t be leaving two young children to be raised in her absence, the youngest child never to remember her,” said the judge.
Along with clarifying what they believed were mitigating and aggravating factors in the case, the defence presented 33 character letters from friends and family and spent much of the day examining relevant case law.
On June 28, during the first day of the sentencing hearing, the court heard an agreed statement of facts that outlined what happened on the night of the collision.
Fenton’s pickup truck travelled through a red light at the intersection of Goldstream Avenue and Peatt Road and collided with the driver side of Beckett’s police cruiser at an estimated speed of between 76 km/h and 90 km/h.
Fenton’s blood-alcohol level was three-and-a-half times the legal limit or .287 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.
-With files from Joel Tansey