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Drunk driver only gets a 2.5-year sentence for killing B.C. cyclist

Light punishment for fleeing scene with blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit in the middle of the day

Accident car crash with bicycle on road

A B.C. man was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for hitting Charles Masala with his car, killing him, and abandoning him on the side of the road.

Sumeet Magnat’s blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit when he struck the 53-year-old father of two. The crash occurred at approximately 1:30 p.m. on June 29, 2009. Magnat was travelling at 90 km/h, over 30 km/h over the the posted speed limit, when he swerved to avoid another car and hit Masala.

Magnat fled the scene, leaving Masala on the side of road on Gaglardi Way on Burnaby Mountain. When Magnat and his passenger stopped in a parking lot, security noticed bike parts stuck under the vehicle and called police.

Magnat was so intoxicated that he had difficulty standing, his eyes were glossy and his speech slurred when the police arrived on the scene, reports the CBC.

“In fact, he was so unsteady that he needed to lean on the officers for support,” Vancouver Provincial Court Judge Reginald Harris wrote in his decision.

Despite all this, Harris decided that handing down more than the 30-month sentence “would not bring Mr. Masala back,” the judge wrote in his sentence, “Nor would it ease the grief felt by those who knew him.”

This statement appears to be in response to the 30 victim impact statements submitted to the court by Masala’s many family, friends and community members.

The Crown requested a sentence of three to four years, a 10-year driving prohibition and a concurrent 12-month sentence for leaving the scene of an accident.

Despite calling Mangat’s “Degree of responsibility high,” and his involvement in two other alcohol-related driving “events” within three years leading up to the death of Masala, Harris decided on 30 month sentence for impaired driving to be served concurrently with a 15-month sentence for leaving the scene of an accident.

“Mr. Mangat’s behaviour displayed a cold and calculated disregard for the life of another human being. Simply, and only to avoid the consequences of his behaviour, Mr. Mangat fled the scene thereby leaving a human soul at roadside,” Harris concluded, adding “Mr. Mangat’s actions related to this offence were cowardly at best.”

The judge’s use of language to describe the crash, and the fact that Harris seems to think his sentence is both fair and severe, is infuriating. Not as infuriating as someone killing another human being while recklessly drunk and behind the wheel of a vehicle, despite it being that persons third time being caught drunk driving, of course.

A longer prison sentence won’t “bring Masala back” or “ease the grief felt by those who knew him,” sure. But, by that logic, neither does a long prison sentence for any other kind of murder. What such a light sentence does do is assure the public, yet again, that they can behave as dangerously and recklessly as they want behind the wheel of a car and it will be taken less seriously. What does a sentence like this say about the value the court puts on a person’s privilege to operate¬† motor vehicle compared to the value it puts on a persons life?