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Teen who caused Alyssa Power’s death ‘should have forseen the deadly consequences of her acts,’ judge says
Judge James Walsh didn't hold back nor sugarcoat his words Tuesday morning as he sentenced a teenage girl in connection with the car crash that killed her best friend last April.
Calling her a "study in conflict," Walsh said the girl presented as intelligent and remorseful for her role in Alyssa Power's death, but was also manipulative and minimized her actions, particularly when it came to breaking court orders not to drive or possess keys to a motor vehicle.
"(These orders) clearly meant little or nothing to her," Walsh said. "If she had abided by them, you can be certain Ms. Power would still be alive.
"She caused the death of Alyssa Power."
— Judge James Walsh
Power, 19, died in the crash, which happened at the intersection of Canada Drive and Hamlyn Road the night of April 13. The convicted teenager — who has turned 18 since the accident, but can't be named because she was sentenced as a youth — was driving a Honda Accord with three passengers: next to her in the front seat was a 15-year-old boy, and behind her in the back seat was another boy, age 17. Power was sitting next to him.
Three of the teenagers were under orders to not have any contact with each other at the time.
After being spotted by police running two stop signs, the young driver stepped on the gas, refusing to pull over despite the flashing lights and sirens. She sped through the intersection at the bottom of Hamlyn Road, ignoring a red light, and crashed into an SUV before ending up on a lawn.
Power died instantly. She left behind a one-month-old daughter. The boy next to her was bleeding and had a broken arm that would later require surgery. The driver of the SUV was also injured, needing months of physiotherapy.
The teenage driver was bleeding from a number of severe lacerations to the face. When approached by police, she gave them a false name until an officer arrived who recognized her.
On Tuesday, having spent the last nine months in custody and arguing for a sentence of time served, the girl was handed an 18-month jail term. Walsh gave her credit for the time she has spent on remand, leaving her with nine months left to serve. She will spend six of those in jail and the remaining three under supervision in the community, and will then spend a year on probation with a number of conditions. Walsh also banned her from driving for five years.
"(She) should have foreseen the deadly consequences of her acts," Walsh said. "She chose to flee from police, run two stop signs, drive at a reckless speed on snowy and slippery roads in a residential neighbourhood, run a red light, kill her best friend, seriously injure other friends, and seriously injure (the SUV driver)."
The Crown had argued for a three-year jail sentence for the girl.
In bringing down his sentence, Walsh noted youth sentences are significantly less severe than those of adults for the same offences, because the law says youth have a diminished responsibility and culpability. Sentences must also be focused on the young person's rehabilitation, teaching them respect and encouraging repair of harm in the community, as opposed to using them as an example to deter others.
"General deterrence has no place in sentencing of youth. I think this is a concept that is sometimes difficult for the public to understand," the judge said.
Walsh noted the teenager has been doing well in school while incarcerated, and has plans to attend post-secondary school. He said he was troubled by aspects of a pre-sentence report that deemed the girl as manipulative and willing to say anything to be released from custody.
He said he was also concerned with statements the teenager had made at her sentencing hearing last month, during which she told Walsh she had fled from police because the others in the car had told her to, and that she "only did what anyone else would have done." Walsh said those statements amounted to victim-blaming and a lack of insight into her actions.
"What anyone would have done was pull over and stop," he said.