It appears to be a case of agism in reverse.
An 88-year-old senior, who is legally blind, was handed a sentence of just two-years probation last week in Vancouver after he struck and killed a man with the truck he was deliberately driving without a licence.
The man, Melle Pool, did not renew his licence in 2001 due to macular degeneration and the fact he was deemed unfit to drive by his doctors. But despite that, he regularly went out driving.
The man he killed, 52-year-old Terry Mitchell, was a flag person on duty near Fort Langley when he died.
The judge in the case, Catherine Bruce, called Pool’s case “extraordinary,” and pointed to his age, frail health and the fact Pool cares for his ill wife as reasons for not sending him to jail. And, the judge added, there was no likelihood Pool would re-offend.
But how many people half Pool’s age would get the same break?
If you flaut the law for 10 years and finally your action results in you killing another person—and not because of a mistake but because you decide safety is not your concern—should you get what amounts to a slap on the wrist based on your age?
We can only have confidence in the law if it is applied equally. Pool’s age should have no bearing on the decision. His actions should.
What he did by driving when he knew it was dangerous to do so—repeatedly—was against the law. The fact he killed a person due to his stubborn decision to thumb his nose at the law only made it worse.
A lot has been said recently about seniors who drive.
Like drivers of any age, some are good and some are bad. But unlike others, seniors do have to contend with the fact that their bodies are directly affected by age. And that can affect their ability behind the wheel.
Prior to my dad passing away in 2006, he suffered a stroke. Before the stroke, he lived to drive. His little English sports car was his life.
But his licence was taken away after the stroke. He was crushed. But as hard as it was to accept, it was the right decision for him and those around him. He died of an associated heart attack a few years later, something that could have happened on the road if he had still had his licence.
In Pool’s case, it was revealed he drove regularly without a licence. His refusal to accept he was no longer fit to drive directly led to the death of another person. In this case, the sentence did not fit the crime. And that should be a concern for us all.
And it did not stop there. In an ironic, head-scratching twist, the judge also banned Pool from driving for 10 years.
Now here’s a judge who just doesn’t get it.
Alistair Waters is the Capital News’ assistant editor.