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Supreme Court to decide on sentence for Richard Suter
Published Wednesday, October 11, 2017 1:02PM MDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 11, 2017 7:19PM MDT
The Supreme Court of Canada is hearing the appeal of a 26-month prison term that was handed to Richard Suter, the man charged in connection to a fatal collision where a vehicle crashed into a restaurant patio, killing a toddler.
Suter was initially sentenced to four months behind bars after he pleaded guilty to refusing to provide a breath sample following the May, 2013 collision.
Then, in 2016, the Alberta Court of Appeal increased his sentence to 26 months.
He was driving his vehicle when it crashed into a restaurant patio in Terwillegar, and killed two-year-old Geo Mounsef who was eating dinner with his family at the time.
On Wednesday, Suter’s lawyer argued his client was given bad legal advice after the crash.
“It’s all this verbiage which is all in a fog, and Mr. Suter is not getting it,” defence lawyer Dino Bottos said Wednesday. “The only thing he gets is: don’t blow, and don’t talk.
“Those are the two pieces of advice that sink in, and that’s why Mr. Suter’s…testimony, was ‘I honestly believed it’…That’s why the judge found an honest mistake, not just an excuse or a strategic choice.”
“On a proper consideration of a moral blameworthiness of the offender and the gravity of the offence, that even a 26 month sentence is lenient,” Crown counsel Joanne Dartana said. "And certainly, a four month sentence is demonstrably unfit.”
Mounsef’s family made the trip to Ottawa to watch court proceedings.
“It gets difficult sometimes sitting in court and listening to this,” Mounsef’s mother Sage Morin said. “Especially because at this point you really don’t know which way it will go.”
It all comes down to a law that was passed in 2008 that put refusing to give a breath sample after causing death on the same level as killing someone while driving impaired.
“The fact that we’re sitting in Supreme Court splitting hairs now is just reduntant,” Morin said.
“The supreme court will provide guidance, or refusal after death,” Bottos said.
Bottos said his client has been through enough – citing an incident in January, 2015 where a group of men went to Suter’s house, beat him, and cut off his thumb.
Suter has served nine and a half months of his 26 month sentence; he’s out on bail while the Supreme Court decides.
It’s expected the Supreme Court could take four months or longer to make a decision in this case.
With files from Jeremy Thompson and Jonathan Glasgow