Driving death nets six months

Emilio Castillo-Borden was sentenced on Monday to six months imprisonment for causing death by dangerous driving.

His offence took place on 19 November, 2007, about 1.15pm along the Esterley Tibbetts Highway. The woman who died in the collision was Shaney Bar-On, also known as Shaney Kol, 39.

The matter was set for trial, but in August Castillo-Borden asked the court for a Goodyear direction. This is an indication by the judge what the maximum sentence would be on a guilty plea when the Crown and Defence agree on the basic facts.

After hearing from Crown Counsel Nicola Moore how the collision occurred, and what sentences have been handed down in similar cases, Justice Charles Quin indicated that the maximum sentence he would impose was 12 months.

Castillo-Borden then entered his guilty plea. Sentencing was adjourned until 24 September, when Ms Moore read aloud what she described as ‘probably one of the most humane documents I’ve seen provided to a court in a death case in my entire career.’ Attorney Ben Tonner spoke in mitigation and Justice Quin decided he wanted more time to consider sentence. The matter was adjourned until Monday.

It was agreed that the collision occurred when the Ford van driven by Castillo-Borden drifted across the centre line and into the opposite lane of traffic. Castillo-Borden had initially said he was not travelling on the wrong side of the road, but there were at least four witnesses who said he was. An accident reconstructionist also found that the defendant’s vehicle was completely over the line.

Ms Kol, who was wearing her seatbelt at the time, was dead at the scene from massive head injuries.

Neither vehicle had any defects that would have contributed to the accident. There were no other aggravating features – no excessive speed or no prolonged period of dangerous driving.

Mr. Tonner told the court that Castillo-Borden, 39, had a good driving record before this incident. A social inquiry report set out his family circumstances. His wife has been confined to a wheelchair following diagnosis of a spinal tumour. Castillo-Borden is her sole caregiver and sole breadwinner for her and seven children. Their mortgage was in arrears and they faced mounting bills.

Husband’s letter

The letter from Mr. Kol said he understood his victim impact statement would be taken into consideration for the sentencing.

‘How does one begin to describe, let along convey, any sense of magnitude of the impact on a family of a tragic and sudden loss of a mother and beloved companion?’ he asked. ‘In clinical terms I can say that my two little children must now grow up without the great and wonderful love, care and support, strength, good sense and enlightened guidance of Shaney, their mother.

‘For my part, I need to deal on a daily basis with the reality that she is no longer around. I won’t try to expand further on the ramifications, implications and meanings of Shaney’s death because the dimensions of these are quite beyond my ability to articulate them. It is probably enough for present purposes to say that the impact of Shaney’s death on our family has been seismic.’

Mr. Kol’s impact statement went on to say: ‘However, two observations are of enormous importance to me. Mr. Castillo did not mean to hurt Shaney and no sentence will bring Shaney back. I also understand that Mr. Castillo’s wife is gravely ill and will presumably need all of the care that can be available to her.

‘When I think of these things I can see no good coming from the imposition of a custodial sentence on Mr. Castillo as it will only increase the hardship on Mr. Castillo’s wife at a time when she can most use a helping hand. I understand that it is important for wider sociological reasons for justice to be seen to be done and for sanctions to be imposed when the law is broken….

‘But if we can for a moment leave aside these sorts of technical concerns and imagine what justice might look like in a caring, understanding and compassionate world, I would think the best outcome all around would be for Mr. Castillo to remain free and discharge his debt to society by devoting himself solemnly and in earnest caring for his wife to the best of is ability.

‘That would be justice. That would be good. That would be what Shaney would want. And that makes the most sense to me,’ Mr. Kol wrote.

In passing sentence, Justice Quin described the letter as remarkable. He agreed that life cannot be restored or loss measured by the length of a prison sentence.

But, he pointed out, Cayman has a dismal record for offences of this kind. All drivers must realise a custodial sentence will be imposed, whatever their circumstances.

The judge said if Castillo were dozing off while driving, he should have pulled over and not have driven while tired. He also commented that the defendant had not shown recognition of his responsibility as breadwinner when he walked off his job because he was unhappy with his new role there after the accident.

In addition to the prison term, the judge disqualified Castillo-Borden from holding a driver’s licence for five years.