Woman took blame after young man crashed her car
Blatantly lying to police can cause a delay in their investigation of an accident and could result in someone avoiding prosecution, Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn told a mother and son last week before fining them $3,400.
Marline Adelina Chisholm and Gary McNeil Chisholm Jr. were before the court for misleading police after the young man crashed his mother’s car along the Frank Sound Road in June 2011.
Crown Counsel Laura Manson and defence attorney Richard Barton explained how the Chisholms came to be charged.
Gary, who was 19 at the time, was not insured to drive his mother’s car. The night of the incident he took it without her knowledge. She was awakened from her sleep by a phone call that indicated he had been in an accident.
She made her way to the accident scene with Gary and a friend. There she told police that she had fallen asleep and run off the road. She said she got a ride home to change her clothes and then returned to try to pull the car out of the bush.
Mrs. Chisholm and her son maintained this account, even though there was other evidence that Gary had been driving.
The magistrate asked whose idea it had been for Mrs. Chisholm to take the blame.
“They are both equally culpable in my mind,” Mr. Barton said. But if the magistrate wished to press him on the matter, he asked permission to speak further with his clients.
The attorney then advised, “She accepts it was on her own volition without any influence whatsoever.”
The magistrate pointed to a social inquiry report in which Mrs. Chisholm had said she only did it to protect her son.
Asked by the report writer if she would do it again, she had replied, “I guess.”
The magistrate remarked on this when passing sentence. The strong desire to protect one’s child was not admirable in these circumstances, she emphasised. The son’s behaviour was not admirable, either, she indicated. He chose to go along with the deception instead of taking responsibility.
Mr. Barton assured the court that he had no genuine cause to believe that the offence would be repeated. He pointed out that no third party had been injured and no structure had been damaged when the vehicle veered into the vegetation. He added that Mrs. Chisholm had withstood the total expense of damage to her car.
The magistrate asked why they had taken so long to enter guilty pleas.
Mr. Barton said the Chisholms had not understood the seriousness of the situation at the time. Then they had faced charges of conspiracy to defeat justice until the Crown satisfied itself that this more serious charge need not be pursued.
Mr. Barton asked that no conviction be recorded against Mrs. Chisholm, given her previously blameless life and the unselfish manner in which she had cared for people who were ill or recovering from serious traffic accidents.
The magistrate rejected his plea, saying the sentence had to be a deterrent to the defendant and anyone else who might think of committing the offence.
She accepted the defendants’ remorse and extensive personal mitigating factors Mr. Barton had brought to her attention.
On that basis she fined Mrs. Chisholm $1,500 or six months in default. Gary was fined $1,200 for misleading police, $450 for driving without insurance and $250 for leaving the scene of an accident. For the insurance offence, he was disqualified from driving for 12 months from the date of sentence.