He slammed into a motorcycle at high speed while driving with a blood-alcohol reading that was nearly five times the legal limit.
Yet a Winnipeg man will not go to jail — or even get a criminal record — in what is believed to be a legal first in the province.
Navdeep Sooch was recently granted what's known as a curative discharge based on his extreme alcohol addiction and the legal finding he would benefit more from treatment, not punishment, despite seriously injuring the victim.
'It would not be, in these particular circumstances, contrary to the public interest'— provincial court Judge Michel Chartier
Sooch, 37, was instead given three years of probation with intensive therapy that will see the charge of driving impaired causing bodily harm vanish from his otherwise clean record provided he doesn't reoffend in that period.
"It would not be, in these particular circumstances, contrary to the public interest," said provincial court Judge Michel Chartier.
Under the Criminal Code, curative discharges can be granted in certain cases provided a set of criteria are met. They include the circumstances of the offence, the "maturation of the offender," the availability and calibre of treatment facilities and the probability treatment will be successful.
Legal sources told the Free Press this is believed to be the first time a curative discharge was granted in an impaired-driving case where bodily harm resulted. The Crown was opposed to the bid that was made successfully by defence lawyer Sheldon Pinx.
A lengthy sentencing hearing earlier this year included testimony from Sooch, a worker at the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, a psychiatrist who has spent extensive time with the accused and Sooch's personal sponsor from Alcoholics Anonymous.
"He described the accused as a man worth saving," said Chartier.
Sooch has been an alcoholic for the past two decades, with only brief periods of sobriety. Typically, he goes back to the bottle when unable to cope with the side-effects of quitting, court was told.
Chartier found, on a "balance of probabilities" as required by law, that this case could be dealt with by way of the rare legal finding based on the "narrow circumstances" that are present. His ruling appears to fly in the face of other recent judgments in which first-time drunk drivers have often been given jail sentences, even in cases where no crash or injury occurred.
"Our courts have emphasized that denunciations and deterrence are driving principles of sentencing for the drinking driver," Chartier said in making his ruling. "Sometimes, effective rehabilitation can be the most effective way of keeping an individual from drinking and driving."
The facts of the May 2010 crash were not in dispute. Sooch was behind the wheel of his car when he crashed into a motorcycle that was stopped at a red light on Bishop Grandin Boulevard and Shorehill Drive. The male driver was sent flying over the handlebars, landing close to seven metres away. He suffered extensive trauma including three fractured vertebrae and injuries to the abdomen, groin, knees, back, wrist and hip.
"His recovery will likely never be complete," Chartier said, noting the man continues to be in great discomfort four years later.
Blood-alcohol results showed Sooch close to .40. The legal limit for driving is .08. Such an extreme level shows how conditioned Sooch's body was to alcohol, as many other people would have been unconscious, or worse, with those readings, court was told.
The psychiatrist who has been working with Sooch told court he believed sending him to jail, as the Crown requested, could "enhance the probability of a relapse."
Sooch was given a three-year driving ban in addition to his discharge.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.