By Jennifer Saltman, The Province
SURREY — A Surrey father whose teenage son was killed in a hit-and-run crash two years ago was “speechless” after seeing the other driver receive a 15-month jail sentence.
“I feel like I’ve been disappointed like crazy by the justice system,” Ken Dhillon said Thursday, following sentencing in provincial court in Surrey for Balwinder Kumar Saggu. “Justice delayed is justice denied — it’s been two years. I didn’t expect much, but I didn’t expect this either.”
Saggu, 64, pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to stop at the scene of an accident.
At about 10:45 p.m. on June 24, 2014, 16-year-old Kevin Dhillon was riding a motorcycle west on 96th Avenue at 123A Street when a Honda Accord driven by Saggu turned left in front of him. Dhillon hit the rear passenger side of the car and was thrown from his motorcycle. He died a short time later.
Following the crash, Saggu continued driving on 123A Street for a short distance, pursued by Dhillon’s cousin and friend, who had been following Dhillon as he drove. Saggu pulled over and came “stumbling and tumbling” out of the driver’s seat. They asked if he had been drinking and he said he had not. Dhillon’s cousin and friend then went back to help Dhillon, and Saggu walked from the scene.
The next day Saggu called police to report the Honda stolen. The car was not insured and had been given to Saggu by a friend to be repaired. On June 25, 2014, Saggu was arrested. He confessed that he had left the scene and filed a false police report.
In her decision, Judge Jennifer Oulton said Saggu failed in his moral and legal duty as a driver, citizen and human being to stay and offer assistance to the victim and police. “Mr. Saggu’s actions prevented a complete investigation at the time, and left important unanswered questions,” Oulton said, calling Saggu’s decision to leave “callous.”
The Crown had asked for a 12- to 18-month jail sentence and a lifetime driving prohibition.
Saggu has a lengthy driving record, with 61 offences dating to the 1980s, including a previous instance of leaving the scene of an accident, driving when he was prohibited or unlicensed, and numerous charges of impaired driving. At the time of the crash, he was under an indefinite driving prohibition.
The defence said that due to “rare and exceptional circumstances” Saggu should receive a suspended sentence and two to three years’ probation. Saggu suffers from a litany of health problems, including diabetes, a seizure disorder, hypoglycemia and anemia.
Oulton said Saggu’s health is a factor, but did not want to overemphasize its importance in sentencing. “Mr. Saggu’s poor health, while unfortunate, is not linked in any way to this offence,” she said. Oulton said that if Saggu was healthy, she would impose an 18-month jail sentence. Instead, she sentenced him to 15 months in jail, subtracting three months in recognition that a jail sentence will be more difficult for him because of his illnesses. He is also subject to a lifetime driving prohibition.
Ken Dhillon said the sentence sends the message that if people avoid responsibility for a crash by leaving the scene, they’ll get a lighter sentence than if they stay. “It’s a young, innocent kid that was killed by this guy that has a long criminal history, and he gets away with 15 months,” he said.
He said his son was his best friend — someone who had “the greatest smile and the biggest heart.”
“For them, it’s just an accident. For me, I’ve lost my son,” he said.