Column: Lenient sentence sends wrong message

Speculation that the teen who mowed down Molly Burton has learned his lesson might not be any more accurate than asserting he did the right thing by pleading guilty.

Aged 16 when his parents’ car flung a 24-year-old Molly into bushes off Comox (Dyke) Road a year ago, badly injuring her in the process, the teen did virtually nothing right.

In court, the defence lawyer admitted his client “shotgunned” two beers before striking Molly. A shotgunner shakes a can of beer, then pierces it with a small hole to drink as fast as possible. Presumably, the objective is to get as inebriated as possible as quickly as you can.

It’s a dubious practice for an adult even when impaired driving is not involved, let alone an underage teen drinking alcohol illegally, then getting behind the wheel of a car.

Hitting a pedestrian walking along the roadside was arguably not the worst thing he did. That would be fleeing the scene, leaving a young woman lying out of sight in excruciating pain for hours and fearing for her life.

If Brody Fullerton had not heard her cries and found her after a search, the teen – unnamed due to the Youth Criminal Justice Act – might have faced a charge of impaired driving causing death.

Instead, the boy didn’t turn himself in to RCMP until the next day. Doing the right thing would have been to stop, offer any comfort to Molly that he could and contacting 911 promptly.

He still could have called 911 for help once he got home. He did not.

By waiting until the next day, he ensured that RCMP could not prove he had been drinking, thereby avoiding more-serious charges. Although the teen admitted to “shotgunning” two beers, the judge said he could not consider that in sentencing because there was no physical evidence, nor a charge of impaired driving.

Explain to me again how pleading guilty only to (hit and run) was doing the right thing.

The sentence delivered Friday includes a five-year driving prohibition, supervision for two years, community service, a curfew and a written apology to his victim.

A court-ordered apology will not mean much to Burton, who might suffer for the rest of her life from leg and arm injuries.

Molly didn’t get much justice. There’s also not much deterrence for anyone else thinking of smashing back some alcohol and driving.

And absolutely no incentive to stop and help someone you have just struck with a vehicle besides a genuine desire to do the right thing.



Mark Allan is a freelance journalist and former editor of the Comox Valley Record


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