UPDATE: Robert Samuel Noseworthy sentenced to seven years

Judge agrees with lawyers' recommendation on jail term for chronic drunk driver

Rosie Mullaley rmullaley@thetelegram.com
Published on March 3, 2011

Robert Samuel Noseworthy was sentenced to seven years in jail today when he appeared in provincial court in St. John's.

Provincial court Judge Greg Brown announced his decision this morning which was to accept the joint submission of the Crown and defence lawyers from Wednesday's sentencing hearing.

Brown also gave Noseworthy credit for time already spent in custody since his arrest which leaves four years, five months left to serve.

Brown also agreed with the lawyers to have the 61-year-old Noseworthy declared a long-term offender, which means that when his jail term expires, he will be closely supervised in the community for 10 years. He is the first convicted drunk driver to be declared a long-term offender in the province.

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Jennifer Button knows the effects of drinking and driving on accident victims last long after the wreckage has been hauled away.

What’s often left is a damaged life that takes a long time to repair.

Button remembers a time when she was healthy, active and full of life.

“In July 2009, this was abruptly and violently interrupted by a car crash caused by a drunk driver,” she said Wednesday.

Testifying at the sentencing hearing for Robert Samuel Noseworthy at provincial court in St. John’s, Button spoke softly, but emphatically, as she told how Noseworthy’s actions changed her life.

“This car crash broke me,” she said.

On July 11, 2009, Button, who lives in Clarke’s Beach, was returning from St. John’s, where she had attended a few events, when Noseworthy, who was driving drunk on the Trans-Canada Highway near Gushue’s Pond, slammed into the side of her car.

The impact sent Button’s car off the road, causing it to flip several times before landing in a ditch.

Button was treated at Carbonear General Hospital for a concussion, soft tissue damage in her neck, shoulders and back, as well as lacerations and burns.

The 60-year-old said she still suffers physically, emotionally and psychologically from the accident.

Before the accident, she had won her battle against breast cancer, was volunteering in the community and frequently participated in physical activity.

Now, she said, “shock, confusion and pain and distress haunt me.”

Physically, she still feels pain, has issues with balance and gets fatigued easily.

She said her life has been consumed with medical appointments, therapy, legal issues and insurance concerns.

Emotionally, she’s felt frustrated by her lack of independence and motivation. She said she was frightened, anxious, angry and apathetic about life.

That put a strain on her marriage and her relationship with friends. She still has nightmares and often needs medication to sleep.

“I lost my zest. I became lonely for me,” said Button, who is receiving counselling and treatment for depression.

She said she still feels unsafe and cautious when driving, especially on the highway.

“Actions come with consequences,” she said. “These hurtful and painful consequences are ongoing, 20 months later.”

Noseworthy pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing bodily harm and driving while prohibited.

It marks Noseworthy’s 14th and 15th convictions for impaired driving-related offences. His first occurred in 1977.

The St. John’s man was convicted of criminal negligence causing death and received a 2 1/2-year jail term in 1984. It was only in the 1990s was the Criminal Code changed to include a charge of impaired driving causing bodily harm and death.

In 2003, Noseworthy got 3 1/2 years behind bars for impaired-related and driving-related offences and was prohibited from ever driving again.

But that still didn’t stop him.

As a result, lawyers involved in the case suggested Noseworthy be sentenced to seven years in jail.

With credit given for time in custody, it would leave four years and five months left to serve.

They also agreed to have the 61-year-old designated as a long-term offender, which would mean that when his jail term expires, he would be closely supervised in the community for 10 years.

Crown prosecutor Iain Hollett said while rehabilitation is always a factor in sentencing, he said it “takes a back seat” in this case, since Noseworthy is a repeat offender. Protecting the public is most important, he said.

“Society takes a very dim and harsh view of drunk driving. Society’s tolerance has diminished over time in what it accepts …” Hollett said.

“It’s only by the grace of God or devine luck that we’re dealing with a charge of impaired causing bodily harm and not impaired causing death.”

He said a long-term offender designation is appropriate because of Noseworthy’s high risk to reoffend and his need to be supervised once released from prison.

“One of the best indicators of future risk is past practice,” Hollett said.

Defence lawyer Mark Gruchy said Noseworthy accepts responsibility for what he’s done and realizes he needs treatment for his alcoholism.

Gruchy said it was actually Noseworthy’s idea to agree to a long-term offender’s designation because he wants help for his problem.

“He does not want to drink and have these problems anymore …,” Gruchy said.

“He hopes that as he goes into his 60s, his life will be much better than what it’s been.”

Noseworthy’s daughter testified that she will support her father and do all she can to help him once he gets out of jail.

When Noseworthy was given the chance to speak, he apologized to Button and her family.

“There’s no reason for her to be looking over her shoulder because of some asshole like myself on the highway,” he said.

Judge Greg Brown will render his decision on sentencing today.

 

rgillingham@thetelegram.com