An impaired driver who killed motorcyclist Jana Mahenthiran on the Trans Canada Highway on Canada Day 2011 has been sentenced to one day in jail and three years probation.
Tracy Dawn Smith, a 36-year-old mother of three, pleaded guilty on June 19 to impaired driving causing death.
At Smiths sentencing Thursday, Judge Robert Higinbotham imposed the shortest jail sentence with the longest possible probation period. He ordered Smith to continue treatment with the VisionQuest Recovery Society at Harte House in Surrey, where she has essentially been under house arrest since the crash.
Higinbotham also imposed a 10-year driving prohibition and ordered Smith to complete an additional 200 hours of community service.
Mahenthiran, a 47-year-old information technologist for Maximus Canada, died when Smiths car crossed the centre line of the highway and hit him head-on. According to police and witnesses, Smith was in a rage, intoxicated and hostile and blamed the crash on Mahenthiran.
Reading about the loss suffered by Betty, Mahenthirans wife of 22 years, and his mother, Sarojini, was emotionally wrenching, Higinbotham said.
But the judge also considered Smiths disadvantaged life, growing up in a chaotic home with a mother who also suffered from substance abuse.
Smith was physically and sexually abused by her mothers boyfriend. Her husband, whom she married at 17, also abused her.
By age 15, Smith was severely addicted to drugs. She has been hospitalized a number of times for psychiatric issues and has attempted suicide several times. She suffers from depression, panic disorder and anxiety, Higinbotham noted.
At her sentencing hearing last month, James ORourke, executive director of Vision Quest, told the court that Smith had the cognitive function of a nine-year-old at the time of the offence. She has performed more than 100 hours of community work and participated in many programs. Smith has also been clean since Mahenthirans death.
In reaching his decision, Higinbotham took into account Smiths ability to make judgments, at the time of the crash, was at a nine-year-old level. He also found she has progressed to the point where rehabilitation can be considered a reasonable prospect.
Sentencing Smith to prison will render her progress meaningless. Society is best protected if Smith continues as a ward of Vision Quest, not a prison inmate, he said.
In this case, a loving husband and son needlessly lost his life, and those who survive him will carry the pain of their loss with them forever. That is a fact that cannot be changed by anything forthcoming from this court. In simple terms, the issue is whether his death will be for nothing, or whether it may be a catalyst to the saving of many more lives, including the offender, Higinbotham said.
Outside court, Smiths lawyer, Bob Jones, said he was pleased with the decision.
Had she gone to jail, she may have come into contact with some very hard individuals who may well have influenced her and attracted her back to her drug taking habits, said Jones.
ORourke was also pleased with the decision.
Justice won, not vengeance, he said.
Mahenthirans friend Bobbi Bjornholt said she understood that Smith had made significant progress at the facility, but wondered at what cost.
The cost of Janas life? Im not sure thats a good trade, Bjornholt said sadly.
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