Scheduled to be sentenced for causing death by careless driving, defendant Fitzroy Marvin Roach was asked on Friday to plead to a second charge – driving without being qualified.
Roach pleaded guilty in September to causing the death of taxi van driver Beverley Ramsay on Oct. 16, 2012, along the Esterley Tibbetts Highway in the vicinity of Greenwood Drive.
This time he pleaded “guilty with explanation” when the next charge was put to him – that on the same date and place he drove a Nissan UD box truck without being qualified to do so.
Crown counsel Greg Walcolm explained that Roach had a Group 2 license, which did allow him to drive trucks not exceeding 8,500 pounds. The weight of the truck he was driving at the time of the collision was in the range of 8,501 to 14,000 pounds; he therefore needed a Group 3 drivers licence.
Further, there was evidence from a work colleague that Roach had been working till 1:30 a.m. and had then slept in his vehicle. The collision occurred around 6 a.m. and the vehicles were going in opposite directions. There is a slight bend in the road and Roach veered into the lane in which Ms. Ramsay was driving, thereby causing the collision.
Colin Redden, an accident reconstructionist, examined the scene and found no tire marks from the Nissan. This indicated the truck had not braked, which suggested that Roach did not perceive or react to the truck veering over the center line. An alert, sober and competent driver would have braked or steered out of the way, and Roach’s failure to do so was consistent with not being fully alert.
“He may have dozed off as a result of lack of sufficient rest,” Mr. Walcolm suggested.
Defense attorney Dennis Brady told Justice Alastair Malcolm there were no eyewitnesses to the incident, so the evidence was purely scientific. Once he had the expert’s report, Roach pleaded guilty.
The defendant had told police at the scene that he was blinded by the lights of Ms. Ramsay’s vehicle. He tried to swerve out of the way and that accounted for the truck rolling over. The speed limit in that area was 40 mph; there was evidence that the truck was traveling under 40, while the van was doing 51 mph, Mr. Brady pointed out. Further, Roach did sleep that night, so he was not acting irresponsibly.
Roach had stopped and tried to assist Ms. Ramsay until help came, Mr. Brady said.
The attorney said he was instructed to tell Ms. Ramsay’s family of the defendant’s utmost apology, remorse and regret for the fact that he was instrumental in the loss of life of their beloved mother. As much as they were saddled with their loss, so too had Roach’s life been impacted and he now had to live with the memory of that event for the rest of his life.
Mr. Brady urged the court to consider a suspended sentence or a community service order.
He referred to a local 2011 case in which Justice Charles Quin quoted a former U.K. Chief Justice, Lord Taylor, who said, “We wish to stress that life cannot be restored nor can a loss be measured by the length of a prison sentence. We recognize that no term of years or months imposed on the offender can reconcile the family of a deceased victim to their loss, nor will it cure their anguish.”
Justice Malcolm said he would put his sentencing remarks in writing and announce his decision on Monday afternoon, March 14.
He allowed the defendant’s bail to continue, but said that fact was no indication he would not be getting a custodial sentence.