British Columbia

B.C. man who left scene after fatal Surrey crash sentenced to 4½ years in prison

Exactly four years to the day after he hit and killed a man with his truck in Surrey, Christopher Lennox Griffith was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison.

Christopher Griffith hit and killed a man with his truck in Surrey Aug. 17, 2013

Robert Paterson, 40, was killed in a hit-and-run crash near 135A Street and 106 Avenue in Surrey in August, 2013.

Exactly four years to the day after he hit and killed a man with his truck in Surrey, Christopher Lennox Griffith was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison. 

Griffith, 35, was convicted earlier this year of criminal negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle and failing to remain at the scene after he fatally struck Robert Paterson, 40, in August, 2013.

Before handing down his decision, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Jim Williams described Griffith's driving record as "atrocious."

"From 2004 to the date of the offence, there are 10 separate 24-hour suspensions, eight other prohibitions or suspensions and 13 other offences, including three of driving without due care," Williams said in his ruling before he looked up from his notes to address Griffith directly.

"Sir, I derive no pleasure in sending you to jail, I really don't, but I feel that I have no choice. I hope you can turn your life around. From what everyone says, you appear to be a decent man."

Griffith was also banned from driving for 11½ years.

'Scary night'

Griffith read a letter to the court at his sentencing hearing earlier this week, saying there isn't a day that goes by that he doesn't think about what he called 'that scary night.'

Court heard he had been out drinking with a friend on Aug. 17, 2013 when the pair went to Surrey's notorious 135A Street strip where drug use and prostitution are common.

Griffith dropped off his friend in a parking lot and then drove away with a woman whom he paid for a sexual act.

When he returned to the parking lot, he got into an altercation with an angry mob.

Griffith revved his engine several times, then lurched forward, swerved to avoid the crowd and sped away.

His truck hit Paterson near 135A Street and 106 Avenue.

Defence lawyer Jordan Allingham said his client only behaved the way he did because he felt threatened by the crowd.

"This was a situation that he didn't want to be in, he didn't put himself in and he didn't ask for this group to come out and threaten him," Allingham said.

"It's just an unfortunate situation he was in, so I don't think it reflects on his character."

Lucinda Kirby's common law husband, Robert Paterson, was killed when he was hit by a vehicle on 135A Street in Surrey. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

'Please change your life'

Paterson's common-law wife, Lucinda Kirby, wasn't in the courtroom when the sentence was handed down but word travelled quickly to 135A Street, where she lives in a tent.

In an interview, Kirby said Paterson struggled with his demons but on the day he was killed, he had been sober for nine days, which was his longest stretch of sobriety since she met him.

She said Paterson was trying to turn his life around and she believes Griffith should be given the chance to turn his life around, too.

"I think everyone deserves an opportunity to change," Kirby said.

"So, to Christopher Griffith I say 'Please change your life for the better.' If you can do that with your life, then I'll be so happy that this happened and something good came of it. In the end, it's the good things that people will remember about you."

Kirby said she misses Paterson every day but she still feels his presence.

"I think that wherever there's love of a person, that they still with us," she said.

"They're still alive in some way."