A Behchoko man has been sentenced to 10 months in jail after he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing bodily harm following a hit and run crash in July 2016. Samuel Simpson smiled at supporters and appeared relieved after he was sentenced by judge Karan Shaner in Supreme Court in Yellowknife on Oct. 11.
Simpson had been in custody for 197 days prior to the sentencing. Shaner gave him 1.5 days credit for each day spent in pre-trial custody – leaving him with only 4.5 days left to serve. He was arrested and jailed earlier this year after he breached his bail conditions by being in Yellowknife without his bail surety.
According to an agreed statement of facts, Simpson had been drinking with a woman at a cabin off Highway 3 between Yellowknife and Behchoko when they got into a verbal altercation. The woman left the cabin and flagged down a vehicle being driven by a man who was headed towards Yellowknife on the highway. Simpson then followed that vehicle in his jeep and rammed it from behind while travelling at a speed of about 100 km/h, causing the vehicle to flip over into a swamp. The man and the woman were able to get out of the vehicle and were taken to the health centre in Behchoko. The woman was eventually taken to Stanton Territorial Hospital where she was treated for minor injuries.
Simpson returned in his vehicle to the crash site twice, but did not get out of his jeep to check on the well-being of the occupants. He was arrested and charged later that day in Behchoko.
Shaner said that Simpson, who required a Tlicho translator for the sentencing hearing, had little formal education, but was still a highly educated man. She pointed to jobs he has held including a heavy equipment operator and wildlife control at a diamond mine. He took early retirement from the mine in 2014, after his wife died of cancer, court heard. She pointed to his on-the-land skills as well, including hunting and trapping.
Shaner said the court had received three letters of support for Simpson including one from the woman who was in the vehicle that flipped.
“She cares very much for Mr. Simpson and holds him in high regard,” Shaner said. “She has been able to come to terms with this very terrifying ordeal.”
Shaner said that the incident was serious, noting that it was fortunate no one suffered more serious injuries or was killed.
“Driving is a privilege. The public must have confidence that others will drive safely,” Shaner told the court. “This type of conduct will not be tolerated. There is too much at risk.”
Shaner went on to say that she was struck by the degree of remorse Simpson expressed. She added that she felt Crown prosecutor Angie Paquin’s call for a sentence of three years in jail plus a driving ban of between five and seven years was “excessive.” Defence lawyer Jay Bran said nine months custody and a period of probation is a more fitting penalty.
Shaner banned Simpson from driving for one year and also gave him one year’s probation.
The court was filled with close to 25 friends and family of Simpson’s for the sentencing hearing including the woman who was in the car that rolled into the swamp. She declined to talk to talk to News/North following the hearing.