The driver of a vehicle who was involved in deadly car accident has had his sentence reduced from nine years to seven years by the Ontario Court of Appeal who found that the trial judge erred in reviewing punishments imposed in similar cases.
On April 10, 2016, Prithvi Randhawa (“Randhawa”), 22 years-old at the time, drove his vehicle, including four friends, at a high rate of speed through a residential neighbourhood after a night of drinking at Luxy night club in Concord. Randhawa was found to have twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system.
Travelling at 135 km/h on Jane Street, Randhawa collided with a traffic signal pole near Sheppard Avenue West, the vehicle went airborne and crashed upside down. The four passengers were all ejected from the vehicle. Three of them died and one was serious injured. The passengers ranged in age between 19 to 24 years-old.
The surviving passenger, Atul Verma, suffered a traumatic brain injury, a fractured ankle, knee damage, a lacerated liver and lumbar spine fractures. At the time of the trial, he continued to suffer from constant pain, sleepless nights and the deprivation of some of the activities that he used to enjoy.
As a result of the crash, Randhawa sustained a traumatic brain injury and collapsed lung. He regained consciousness in hospital two days following the accident. Due to the injuries he suffered, he lost all memory of the events starting from his time inside the nightclub until he regained consciousness.
Randhawa was found guilty of three counts of impaired driving causing death and one count of impaired driving causing bodily harm. Justice James Chaffe sentenced him to nine years in jail and a driving ban of 93 months.
Justice Chaffe reviewed three similar cases before imposing a sentence. He held that Randhawa’s conduct was “egregious” and worse than the cases he reviewed. One of the cases reviewed by Justice Chaffe was the sentencing of Marco Muzzo who killed three children and their grandfather while impaired in 2016. The sentence Justice Chaffe imposed on Randhawa was a year less than the sentence in the Muzzo case.
Randhawa appealed Justice Chaffe’s sentencing decision arguing that the trial judge erred in determining his sentence within the ranges available. More specifically, it was argued that the sentencing judge failed to consider or misconstrued facts regarding other similar cases when considering an appropriate sentence.
On behalf of the Court of Appeal, Justice Nordheimer found that Justice Chaffe failed to explain why Randhawa’s offence was worse than two of the cases that he had reviewed. Justice Nordheimer stated:
I am unable to find a basis upon which the sentencing judge’s finding could be supported. This is of concern because, as I have said, it is this finding that clearly drove the sentencing judge to determine that a sentence of nine years was appropriate.
Justice Nordheimer ruled that Randhawa’s conduct was most similar to two of the cases under consideration, involving impairment, driving too fast and multiple deaths. Justice Nordheimer also found that the sentencing judge failed to give consideration to Randhawa’s young age and the fact that Randhawa suffered very serious injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, in the crash.
Randhawa also argued that the sentencing judge did not consider that he will be facing numerous civil lawsuits arising from the accident, and subject to large judgments. Justice Nordheimer did not find this to be an error made by the sentencing judge and is not a mitigating factor that is required to be considered when determining a sentence.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Alexandra Hoy was of the opinion that the sentencing decision was appropriate. She felt that it was within Justice Chaffe’s discretion to conclude that Randhawa’s conduct was more egregious than the drivers in two of the cases. Furthermore, Randhawa was driving even faster than Muzzo and in a busier area. She also made note that Randhawa had a worse driving record than Muzzo, including infractions for speeding and running a red light.
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