Berner sentenced to 2½ years
A B.C. judge has sentenced Carol Berner to two years and six months in jail for running over and killing a four-year-old girl while driving drunk down a rural road in Delta in 2008.
The sentence, in which the judge also imposed a five-year driving ban on Berner, was handed down Friday in a provincial court in Surrey, B.C.
Berner, 58, was found guilty on four charges at her trial in July in Surrey, including impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
The Delta, B.C., woman lost control of her car while driving on a road in the Ladner area of Delta, south of Vancouver, hitting Alexa Middelaer and her aunt, Daphne Johanson. Middelaer died after being taken to hospital, while Johanson spent a month in hospital with serious injuries.
At a sentencing hearing last week, Judge Peder Gulbransen reserved his decision after hearing emotional victim impact statements from Middelaer family members and a tearful apology from Berner herself.
After the sentencing, the victim's mother, Laurel Middelaer, said the court's hands were tied, even if the judge had wanted to impose a harsher sentence.
"In this particular case, they were bound by 25 years of case law — 25 years of really light sentencing," Middelaer said. "I think as British Columbians, we need to ask ourselves, are we OK with this?"
Berner's lawyer, David Tarnow, said outside the court Friday that his client planned to appeal the sentence and he would apply for her bail on that basis first thing Monday morning.
"I didn't think jail was the right answer," said Tarnow. "His Honour thought differently. We'll see what the [B.C.] Court of Appeal has to say."
At the trial in July, Gulbransen said Berner exercised poor judgment by driving on a road close to her home at a speed of about 90 km/h in a 50 km/h zone and ignoring speed bumps.
During the four-week trial, a police officer who was involved in a three-month undercover operation testified that Berner told her that she drank three glasses of wine before the incident. Police secretly captured the confession on videotape.
A collision expert testified during the trial that Berner didn't hit the brakes until a second before striking Middelaer and Johanson.