The six-year federal prison term handed down this week to Beverlee Jayne Russell was fair, according to a group aiming to stop impaired driving.
Russell, a 54-year-old Cole Harbour mother of two, was sentenced on Wednesday at Dartmouth provincial court after pleading guilty in March to five charges, including impaired driving causing the death of retired teacher Gary Pfinder.
“Russell’s sentence is certainly in line, if not even on the high range, of what we’re seeing with impaired driving causing death,” said Margaret Miller, the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
Miller cites the fact the punishment for impaired driving causing death used to be less substantial, including house arrest. Russell was given five years for impaired driving causing death in this case.
“MADD Canada is really happy to see that sentences are rising,” Miller said. “It’s a huge step forward when it became mandatory jail time, and I think the courts are recognizing the seriousness of impaired driving.”
Russell was two times over the legal limit and speeding when the car she was driving caused the death of retired teacher Gary Pfinder and injured several others.
Crown attorney Paul Carver was asking for a prison sentence of eight years. Defence lawyer Pat Atherton sought five to six years.
Russell also received a 10-year driving ban, which Miller believes was appropriate.
Miller said a lifetime driving ban — which the Crown was seeking — is harder to comply with, and might have only encouraged repeat offences.
“When you tell someone they can’t drive at all, they know they can just get behind the wheel and chances are they won’t be caught driving, they’re going to try,” she said.
“And if they’re breaking the law anyway, what’s it going to matter if they’re drinking or not?”