Two years after suffering “catastrophic” injuries when she was struck by a luxury SUV with a 17-year-old at the wheel, Jocelyn Hallier can’t say she holds any animosity towards the young driver.
“She didn’t know she was going to hit me,” Hallier said outside Surrey Provincial Court Wednesday afternoon, during a break from the now-19-year-old’s emotional sentencing hearing.
“It was an accident. One caused by a lot of carelessness and bad driving…”
The court heard that the driver – who cannot be named due to her age at the time of the offence – pleaded guilty two months ago to dangerous driving causing bodily harm in connection with the July 7, 2014 incident.
She hasn’t driven in the years since the tragedy, according to her lawyer, and sentencing imposed Wednesday prohibits her from getting behind the wheel for another five years – a term both Crown and defence submitted was appropriate.
Despite the lawyers’ agreement on the terms, which include two years’ probation and an order to provide a DNA sample, Judge Gary Cohen became emotional as he outlined his reasons for imposing them.
“This particular sentencing is one of the difficult ones,” he said.
Both a crime and an accident, “it’s not just the victim (who suffers), but also the defendant suffers a great deal, if the defendant has any sort of a heart at all.”
Noting punishment is not the goal of youth court, the judge paused to wipe tears, pointing out anyone could easily look back on childhood and identify situations they weren’t proud of.
“I’m sure we’ll all find times when we were less than the best quality of citizen,” he said.
The sentence, he added, wasn’t what he wanted to impose, but what the law required.
On the night in question, Hallier was walking her dog in the 3400-block of King George Boulevard at around 10 p.m., when the companions were struck by a Mercedes ML50.
The impact, which occurred after the Mercedes hit a parked car, sent Hallier into the bushes, causing injuries – including a traumatic brain injury, crushed pelvis and four fractured vertebrae – that kept her in care for the next six months.
Hallier’s German shepherd Deville – a gift from her husband of 23 years who had died less than a year before – was killed. Hallier noted in her victim-impact statement that her dog didn’t die immediately, but “lay in pain and alive” under the vehicle, until found.
“She took the first hit, and that probably saved my life,” Hallier, 68, later told Peace Arch News.
Prosecutor Kim Wendel told the court that prior to the impact, the teen had been at a youth gathering at a Crescent Road house. She wasn’t drinking but left with two friends who had been to pick up three more friends from a Tim Hortons in the 1700-block of 152 Street.
Those passengers later told police the teen was driving erratically on the return trip, speeding and jerking the wheel or swerving, and passing other motorists on the right, Wendel said.
“She drove through things, including one stop sign,” Wendel quoted one passenger as saying. “Various… occupants yelled at her to slow down or stop during the course of this driving.”
One passenger described the driving as dangerous, “and another one said that she was scared,” Wendel said.
One motorist who was passed by the Mercedes as he drove northbound on King George described seeing it “swerve for an unknown reason, lose control and then hit a parked car,” the prosecutor said.
Experts determined the Mercedes was travelling at at least 75 km/h when it hit the parked vehicle, she said. The teen driver told paramedics she was doing 95 km/h when she lost control.
In submitting that the driving prohibition and two years’ probation was an appropriate penalty, Wendel named a number of mitigating factors, including post-traumatic stress disorder and steps taken by the driver “to manage her mental-health issues.”
Defence counsel Michael Klein told the court his client – who no longer lives in the province – has had “what I can only describe as a difficult life,” and in addition to PTSD, takes medication for depression and anxiety.
Klein said his client was an assault victim at a young age, had a strained relationship with her mother, and had previously attended hospital with “suicidal ideations.” Her depression and anxiety started at around age 16.
“I don’t offer that as a legal excuse,” Klein said, describing his client – who was visibly upset at times during the proceedings – as extremely remorseful.
“She is truly sorry for the damage that her actions caused Miss Hallier… This incident has haunted (her) since its occurrence.”
She is also aiming for a career as a social worker as a result, in the hopes of helping others facing difficult situations.
“She is very adamant that she wants to give back to the community to at least in some way repair the difficulties she has caused Miss Hallier and those around her,” Klein said.
While Cohen acknowledged it’s “not possible” for the sentence to put things right, Hallier expressed hope outside court that it would have a lasting impact.
It was “as much as could happen,” she said. “I’m into helping her better her life. I hope it’s at least instrumental in that.”
She remains bothered by the apparent lack of weight her dog’s death was given, saying losing Deville “was like losing a friend.
“There’s no tribute to her. I’d really like to do something to change that.”