Crown to appeal Richard Suter's four-month sentence in toddler's death
Notice of appeal argues sentence was 'demonstrably unfit' given the gravity of the offence
The Crown has launched an appeal of the four-month sentence handed to an Edmonton man who refused to provide a breath sample after he crashed his SUV into a patio and killed a two-year-old boy.
An Edmonton provincial court ruled last week that Richard Suter, 65, was not impaired at the time of the crash in May 2013.
The court accepted the theory of a defence expert that Suter's glassy eyes and speech problems were consistent with shock or trauma after the crash.
Judge Larry Anderson said he believed Suter was the victim of what he called "hopefully rare, ill-informed and bad legal advice," when the accused was advised not to provide a breath sample.
In a notice of appeal filed Monday, the Crown argued that Anderson "erred in principle" by treating the finding of a lack of impairment and bad legal advice as mitigating factors, or by giving them undue weight.
The Crown also argued that Anderson gave insufficient weight to the principles of deterrence and denunciation.
"The sentence imposed was demonstrably unfit and not proportional to the gravity of the offence and moral blameworthiness of the offender," according to the notice of appeal.
George Mounsef, whose two-year-old son, Geo, was killed in the crash, said he hopes the appeal will one day result in justice for his family.
"He killed somebody, refused a breath sample, denied police of the one key piece of evidence that they need in these type of cases," Mounsef said. "If somebody like Suter is to refuse and then get four months, what's to stop other people from thinking that they can do the same? That's the reason the sentence needs to be longer, and needs to fit the crime."
But defence Suter's lawyer, Dino Bottos, said he was disappointed and frustrated to learn the Crown will appeal.
"The Crown seems to do this more and more," he said, "which is to simply appeal verdicts that they don't like and sentences that they don't like, without any real appreciation for the personal costs it takes on a private citizen such as Mr. Suter. The economic toll it takes, the emotional toll it takes."
Defence calls sentence 'fit and fair'
Bottos called the four-month sentence "fit and fair," and said the public needs to remember that his client was "factually innocent" of impaired driving.
"You're not going to find a more innocent offender of this section of the Criminal Code than Mr. Suter," he said.
Outside court last week, Bottos told reporters that Suter was content with the sentence and felt vindicated on the issue of whether he was impaired.
"He will pay his debt to society," Bottos said. "Finally the one objective observer who's seen and heard it all has concluded that Mr. Suter was not guilty of impaired driving."
In May 2013, Suter slammed his SUV into a restaurant patio then slowly backed up. Moments later, he was pulled from his vehicle and thrown to the ground. He was then dragged through a parking lot and attacked and kicked by an angry mob.
After he was arrested, Suter called a legal-aid lawyer, who advised him not to provide a breath sample.
Mounsef said harsher penalties for refusing to provide police a breath sample were meant to deter people from doing just that.
"We accept that it doesn't matter how long he goes to jail, we never get our son back. Nothing will bring him back. Our life doesn't change. If Richard Suter goes to jail for one day or 100 years ... nothing changes."
But the message needs to be sent, he said, that people can't routinely use the same defence in future cases.