Igor Domladis pleaded guilty to causing death of Zak Quappe by dangerous driving
The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal ruled on Monday that a sentence of four years imprisonment was not manifestly excessive for the offense of causing death by dangerous driving.
Attorney Amelia Fosuhene argued on behalf of Igor Domladis, who was sentenced last November after pleading guilty to causing the death of his best friend, Zak Quappe, in an incident of road racing in the early hours of May 18, 2013.
Ms. Fosuhene compared Cayman and U.K. sentencing guidelines and submitted that Justice Malcolm Swift should have used a starting point of five years instead of six before giving one-third credit for the guilty plea. She also argued that there was no evidence of alcohol consumption leading to gross impairment. She pointed out that her client would be affected every day for the rest of his life by what he had done, not only to his friend and himself, but to their families, who had been close.
Since the incident, the Domladis family has left the island, she noted.
Mr. Quappe was 21 at the time of the incident; Domladis was 23. Their cars collided as Domladis was in the wrong lane passing his friend. The speed limit in that area – near Sand Cay on South Church Street – was 30 miles per hour. Domladis’s speed was estimated to be 60 miles per hour.
Justice Sir Alan Moses delivered the court’s ruling after he, President Sir John Chadwick and Justice John Martin heard Ms. Fosuhene’s submissions and asked questions. The judges said they did not need to hear from Crown counsel Greg Walcolm, who would have replied to Ms. Fosuhene’s arguments.
“We should start by making clear that this is truly a tragic case,” Justice Moses said. “Nothing a judge can say can replace the loss of life of the appellant’s best friend.” He accepted also “the terrible impact on two families.”
He noted that the two young men had been out socializing with friends that night. There was no evidence of how much alcohol had been in Domladis’s blood. To Domladis’s credit, he accepted he had been drinking but was adamant that his ability to drive was not impaired. However, the court was satisfied that the alcohol consumption must have substantially reduced his inhibitions as to how he chose to act that night.
A serious aggravating feature was the fact that Domladis had two previous convictions for speeding. Another aggravating feature was that the passenger in Domladis’s car was injured. Mr. Quappe was alone in his car.
The area in which the collision occurred is built up, Justice Moses pointed out. The road itself was small, not a motorway or dual carriageway (divided highway). An unoccupied parked car and stone wall were damaged in the crash. It was fortunate – but really only by chance – that no one else was killed, Justice Moses remarked.
The final point he addressed had to do with what he referred to earlier as “these wretched guidelines” for sentencing. Ms. Fosuhene had listed factors which she considered put the offending at the upper range of “level two” in seriousness rather than the lower range of “level one” in seriousness.
Justice Moses said the court did not agree with her because Domladis had ignored the rules of the road, racing on a small road at excessive speed. He added that it was important not to become over-focused on distinctions between cases which fall at the top of one range of sentencing and the bottom the next range. Instead, the court preferred to stand back at the end of the day and ask whether the sentence was fair and just. On that basis, four years was not manifestly excessive.