Personal Injury

Brown: hit-and-run drivers should face 'harsh criminal penalties'

By Kirsten McMahon, Associate Editor

Non-criminal charges under the provincial Highway Traffic Act for leaving the scene are never appropriate for hit-and-runs, Toronto critical injury lawyer Patrick Brown tells the Toronto Star.

“As soon as you leave the scene, you’ve made an intentional act to leave somebody back there,” says Brown, a partner with McLeish Orlando LLP. “That is a criminal act, and it should be faced with very harsh criminal penalties.”

Lawyer and road safety advocate Brown makes his comments in the Star’s report on a rash of fatal hit-and-runs in Toronto.

“Since Sept. 21, four drivers have fled collisions that left a pedestrian dead, according to statistics compiled by the Star based on police news releases and media reports,” the article states.

“Of the at least 32 pedestrians killed so far this year, nine of them, or almost one third, were victims of hit-and-runs,” it continues.

The newspaper notes that penalties for hit-and-run drivers who are caught can be severe.

“Under the Criminal Code of Canada, a person who knowingly leaves the scene of a deadly accident is liable for a maximum sentence of life in prison. If the victim was seriously injured, the driver could be jailed for up to 10 years,” the Star says.

“However, drivers can also face lesser, non-criminal charges under the provincial Highway Traffic Act, which sets maximum penalties for leaving the scene at a $2,000 fine and up to six months' imprisonment.”

When drivers do face criminal charges, the article notes they often get far less than the maximum.

“In 2012, a driver who left the scene after killing 30-year-old Kevin Mounce in Niagara Falls, and then actively tried to cover up the crash by hiding her car and having a friend secretly repair her damaged windshield, received a sentence of two years less a day,” the article states.

Brown — who represented Mounce’s family in a civil suit — questioned whether such sentences go far enough. He tells the newspaper any hit-and-run is “an egregious crime.”

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