7-year sentence for drunk-driving deaths

A Cape Breton man has been sentenced to seven years in prison for driving drunk and killing a young couple in 2004.

Victim's uncle satisfied with sentence

A Cape Breton man has been sentenced to seven years in prison for driving drunk and killing a young couple in 2004.

Michael Gerard Cooper can use that time thinking about the lives he destroyed, said John Sullivan.

"He's got seven years in a closet that he's got to think about every morning," said Sullivan, who lost his niece and goddaughter in the collision.

Cooper, a self-employed carpenter, spent seven hours in a tavern in St. Peter's on May 14, 2004, anddrank as many as 16 bottles of beer, according to witnesses.

He was driving his pickup home down Highway 104 when he crossed the centre line and collided head-on with another vehicle, killing Michael MacLean, 20, and his fiancée Angela Smits, 19.

Sullivan and other family members were in court Tuesday in Port Hawkesbury tohear the sentence.

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Simon MacDonald told the families he couldn't bring back their loved ones, but he could deter others who might be inclined to drink and drive.

MacDonald said he recognizes that Cooperhad suffered a brain injury in the crash, but that his"senseless" actions were the sole cause of the fatal collision.

He sentencedthe 47-year-old manto seven years in jail for each victim, to be served concurrently. In addition, Cooper is banned from driving for the rest of his life.

Crown attorney Robin Archibald said seven years is considered a stiff penalty in a case like this, butin this situation it's warranted.

"This is the type of offence that needs proper punishment for general deterrence," Archibald said, "and nobody can bring back those two kids."

Cooper, who has been living in an assisted-care facility since the crash, pleaded guilty last November to two counts of impaired driving causing death.

He apologizedto thefamilies of hisvictimsin court Monday. He admittedthathe had been drinking andsaidtheaccident was his fault.

Members of the Smits family joined Mothers Against Drunk Driving after the crash and say they'revolunteering their time to protect others from going through what they have.

"Although we cannot bring back my goddaughter or Michael, maybe we can protect the next person from being killed," said Sullivan.