A driver who struck a pedestrian with a motor vehicle that dragged him 145 feet, killing him on the spot in Barrouallie has been sentenced to one year and eight months in prison.
Justice Rickie Burnett handed down the sentence on David Williams, a 57-year-old carpenter/driver, who has mental and physical illnesses.
Williams had initially pleaded not guilty to a charge that on July 31, 2019, at Keartons, he caused the death of Gregory Charles by driving dangerously.
However, he changed his plea to guilty on Feb. 27, 2023 and the court ordered a social inquiry and psychiatric report and granted bail pending sentencing.
Summarising the facts at the sentencing hearing on July 21 at High Court No. 2, in Kingstown, Justice Burnett said that on July 31, 2019, about 10:45 p.m., Williams was driving PN634 in Keartons on his way to Chateaubelair.
There was a function at the Keartons Hard Court and a crowd was gathered on the Keartons Public Road.
Witnesses reported that Williams was travelling at a fast speed and blew his horn on approaching the crowd, causing people to move out of the road.
Charles was crossing the road near one Indian’s shop and was struck by the vehicle when he was about 2 feet from clearing the road.
The vehicle lifted him into the air and he fell back onto the bonnet of the vehicle, which further pushed and dragged him 145 feet from the point of impact.
Occupants of the vehicle heard when Williams applied the brake but the vehicle continued to advance before stopping some distance away.
The witnesses saw smoke coming from the tyres, which had left dark impressions on the road.
The left tyres of the vehicle had travelled 195 feet from the point of impact and the right tyres, 188 feet. The brake impression began 12 feet 8 inches from the point of impact.
Police who responded met Charles motionless at the side of the road.
They observed that the windshield of the vehicle was shattered and that the bonnet, bumper and grill were extensively damaged.
The pathologist concluded that Charles died of multiple trauma due to a motor vehicle accident.
Burnett noted Williams’ age, adding that he has one daughter and is separated from his wife. He works as a carpenter and driver for members of his community.
In the social inquiry report, Williams said he dropped out of Emmanuel High School at Form 2 and opted for carpentry instead.
Members of his community described him as quiet and easy-going and one person said he appeared to be absent-minded and not to be himself after the accident.
This was confirmed by his family.
The social worker said Williams appeared remorseful and wished the accident had not happened. He also expressed sorry to the victim’s family.
The judge said Charles had no children and his parents had predeceased him.
On March 15, 2023, the Mental Health Rehabilitation Centre evaluated Williams.
They concluded that he might have been physically and mentally unwell for the months before the accident and had not been cooperating with the regime prescribed by the doctor.
He exhibited symptoms of a mental disorder and as an outpatient of the Mental Health Rehabilitation Centre, he had not been keeping appointments with the institution.
Justice Burnett noted that neither counsel for defence or prosecution addressed in their submission any issues relative to the report.
He noted that the aims of criminal punishment are prevention, deterrence, retribution and rehabilitation.
The judge said that in coming to its sentence, the court considered other cases, the prevalence of the offence, the character and antecedents of the offender and the peculiar circumstance of the case.
He noted that the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving is seven years.
The judge said the facts placed the seriousness of the offence within level 3, or lesser, in that Williams’ driving created significant risk of danger based on the fact that he was driving above the speed limit at a speed inappropriate for the condition.
Justice Burnett noted that witnesses said Williams was driving at a fast pace despite seeing a crowd in the area.
The measurement shows the vehicle stopped 174 feet from the point of impact.
The court established a starting sentence of two years and five months in prison.
An aggravating feature of the offence was that Williams knowingly put more than one person at risk of death or injury in that seeing the crowd, he should have been aware of the potential risk involved.
He continued at a high speed and only honking his horn showed disregard for other road users, the judge said, adding that a cautious driver would not have also slowed down or stopped.
Williams chose to speed and in so doing knowingly put others at risk, the judge said, adding that the court saw that as irresponsible behaviour.
The court found no mitigating features of the offence, and increased the sentence by one year.
As regards Williams, the court found no aggravating features. AS mitigation, the court cited his genuine remorse, previously clean criminal record, and his good driving record.
Justice Burnett concluded that the mitigating features outweigh the aggravating and reduced the sentence by one year, to two years and give months.
After considering the circumstances in which Williams had entered his plea, the judge decided to grant him the full one-third discount for an early guilty plea, which brought the sentence down to one year and eight months.
In determining whether to send Williams to prison, Justice Burnett applied the reasoning of a judge in an Antiguan case and concluded that the appropriate sentence could only be achieved by a term of imprisonment.
Counsel Carl Williams represented Williams and Maria Jackson-Richards appeared for the Crown.