Surrey crash victim’s son says deporting parolee would ‘send a message’

SURREY — A Surrey man who killed an elderly man when he smashed his brother’s Corvette into a Surrey bus shelter in 2009 is being released on full parole after serving only four months in prison.

Gurjit Dhillon, 28, was found guilty of dangerous driving causing the death of 83-year-old Surrey grandfather Pritam Singh Benning, 83, at 72nd Avenue and 128th Street, on Sept. 9, 2009.

Kyle Benning, the victim’s grandson, said Canada’s justice system is not sticking up for the families of victims.

"We’re taking it pretty tough to know he only served four months for taking a life," he said of Dhillon. "It’s tough to take."

Manjit Benning, the victim’s son, was at Tuesday’s parole hearing, at the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre.

“It’s just terrible,” he said of Dhillon’s parole. “It seems the justice system is not for the victims really, more for the criminals…I had a knot in my stomach.”

Benning’s legs were crushed, and he later died in hospital. The crash happened at rush hour, in heavy traffic when a lot of pedestrians were around. Benning had been sitting at the bus shelter.

Dhillon was sentenced to one year in jail following a trial in Surrey provincial court last year. He began serving his sentence after the B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal of his conviction in June.

Before Judge Jim Jardine sentenced him, Dhillon had apologized to the victim’s family.

"Every morning when I get up, I wonder if there’s something more I could have done to save Mr. Benning," Dhillon told the court. "It kills me inside to know there is nothing I can do to make things better. It will live with me for the rest of my life."

"I’m really sorry," he told Benning’s family. "I just wish I stayed home that day."

During the sentencing hearing in 2013, Crown prosecutor Chris McPherson noted the case centered on "a young man showing off, effectively, in this vehicle."

Jardine said he found Dhillon’s remorse to be "readily apparent."

Kyle Benning, however, doesn’t agree.

"It’s hard to take his word for what it is," Benning said of Dhillon.

Before passing sentence, Jardine advised Dhillon that if he wanted to honour Benning’s memory, he needed to accept responsibility for his crime and "move forward.”

Dhillon had originally faced the threat of deportation over his conviction.

“It would be nice if we could get him deported,” Manjit Benning said Wednesday. “It would send a message.”

McPherson had argued in 2013 for a federal prison sentence of two and a half to three years, while defence lawyer Marvin Stern asked Judge Jim Jardine to consider a suspended sentence.

Stern noted Dhillon faced "collateral consequences," namely an automatic deportation order and an ICBC lawsuit.

Dhillon is a permanent resident who has lived in Canada since he was 11. Under Canadian law, he couldn’t appeal his deportation order if the sentence was greater than two years less a day, the maximum provincial sentence. Stern had argued that Bill C43 was soon expected to lower that threshold to six months, so he asked Jardine not to impose a sentence longer than six months less a day.

McPherson argued against this, noting it’s not yet law and that there’s a "world of difference" between two years and six months.

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