Fatal hit and run driver to be sentenced Thursday on anniversary of victim's death

Christopher Griffith was convicted in March of criminal negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle and failing to remain at the scene in connection with a fatal crash that happened in Surrey in August, 2013.
Robert Paterson, 40, was killed in a hit and run crash near 135A Street and 106 Avenue in Surrey in August, 2013. (CBC)

Lucinda Kirby says it's fitting that the man who killed her common law husband in a hit and run crash in Surrey won't find out his fate until August 17.

The date will mark exactly four years since Christopher Lennox Griffith, 35, smashed his truck into Robert Paterson, 40, as he was walking.

Griffith — who was found guilty earlier this year of criminal negligence in operation of a motor vehicle and failing to remain at the scene — was expected to be sentenced Tuesday afternoon.

However, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Jim Williams decided he needed more time to review the case and put the matter over until Thursday morning.

"It's kind of appropriate, isn't it?" Paterson's common-law wife Lucinda Kirby said outside B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.

"That's the anniversary."

Sentencing arguments

There is a big gap between what the Crown and defence believe to be an appropriate sentence.

The Crown says Griffith should serve five-and-a-half years in prison and the defence is calling for a year-long jail sentence followed by 12 months of probation.

Griffith had been drinking with a friend when the pair decided they would head to the so-called 135A Street 'Strip' in Surrey, so that they could buy drugs.

Griffith testified during his trial that he dropped his friend off in the parking lot of the Royal Canadian Legion on 106 Avenue.

He says he then paid a woman for a sex act and drove to another location with her.

When they returned to the area where he picked her up, Griffith testified that a group of people — some of whom were known to the woman — surrounded his truck and began yelling. He told the court some were carrying pipes as weapons and began approaching his truck aggressively.

Griffith got out of the vehicle and testified that he tried to reason with those surrounding his truck, but he said the crowd continued to behave in a menacing fashion. He revved his engine, lurched his truck forward, then turned left as the crowd scattered to the right.

He sped down 135A street and that's when he hit Robert Paterson.

"His actions were taken, because he was under threat," said defence lawyer Jordan Allingham.

"A pipe or some kind of weapon was present."

At trial, the presiding judge described Paterson as "an innocent bystander" who had no connection to the dispute that was happening.

He was a homeless man who was staying at a machine shop in the area with his common-law partner. The judge said Paterson only walked toward the area because heard the shouting in the nearby lot and went to see what was happening.

Witnesses said Paterson had his back to the truck when he was struck and killed.

Is Griffith remorseful?

Dressed in a white dress shirt and supported by his mother who was seated in the gallery behind him, Griffith read a letter to the court before his sentence was handed down.

"That night will always be with me for the rest of my life," he said, glancing up at the judge occasionally but never turning to face Kirby.

"There hasn't been a day I haven't thought about that scary night. My heart goes out to the family of Mr. Paterson."

During closing arguments, the Crown argued that Griffith hasn't expressed any remorse for his actions.

Outside court, Kirby agreed with the prosecution.

Allingham says that's not the case.

"He prays not only for his own healing but for those who were close to Mr. Paterson as well," Allingham said.