Sentence cut to seven years for drunk driver who killed 3, injured 2 in Toronto crash
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, January 22, 2020 2:34PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 22, 2020 2:36PM EST
TORONTO -- A speeding drunk driver who caused a crash that killed three friends and seriously injured another has had his sentence cut to seven years after a higher court found the judge made a mistake in reviewing punishments meted out in similar cases.
In a split decision Wednesday, the Court of Appeal agreed with Prithvi Randhawa that the nine-year prison term initially handed to him was too harsh relative other offenders.
"In my view, the proper application of the parity principle would lead to a sentence of seven years being imposed on the appellant," Justice Ian Nordheimer wrote for the majority.
The crash occurred in April 2016 when a drunk Randhawa, then 22, sped through a residential neighbourhood in northwest Toronto. He clipped a vehicle, lost control, and his Acura flew into the air and crashed. His four passengers, aged 19 to 24, were thrown from the car. Three died. The fourth was seriously injured, as was Randhawa.
Ontario court Judge James Chaffe sentenced him to nine years for impaired driving causing death and a concurrent five-year term for impaired driving causing bodily harm, prompting the sentencing appeal.
Before imposing sentence, Chaffe reviewed three other cases -- one involving the notorious Marco Muzzo, whose drunken crash killed three children and their grandfather north of Toronto in 2016. He then decided Randhawa's "egregious" conduct was worse than those were. The nine-year sentence he set was a year longer than in two of the cases but a year less than handed Muzzo.
Speaking for the Appeal court, Nordheimer said Chaffe had failed to explain why Randhawa's offence was worse than the others.
"I am unable to find a basis upon which the sentencing judge's finding could be supported," Nordheimer wrote. "This is of concern because, as I have said, it is this finding that clearly drove the sentencing judge to determine that a sentence of nine years was appropriate."
Nordheimer decided Randhawa's conduct was similar to that of two of the other offenders, both of whom were drunk, had driven too fast, and caused multiple deaths. At the same time, the justice said Chaffe had failed to consider sufficiently the fact that Randhawa had suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Alexandra Hoy said she would have left the sentence alone.
"On the record before him, it was open for the sentencing judge to conclude that (Randhawa's) conduct was more egregious than that of the drivers in these other cases," Hoy said.
Among other things, Hoy noted that Randhawa was driving at 135 kilometres an hour in a 60 zone, much faster than Muzzo, and in a busier area.
Hoy also noted Randhawa had a worse driving record than Muzzo and had racked up several convictions for infractions such as speeding and blowing a red light. She also noted Chaffe's comments about Randhawa's reckless behaviour before the crash in "fleeing responsibility" for an initial minor accident.
Nordheimer countered there was no way to know whether Hoy's reasoning mirrored Chaffe's. He also faulted her for making "very fine line distinctions," such as comparing exactly how fast the various offenders were going.
This story was first published by The Canadian Press on Jan. 22, 2020.