Montreal

Tommy Lacasse case: Supreme Court upholds stiff drunk driving sentence

Canada's top court has confirmed the stiff sentence handed down to a young man from Quebec's Beauce region who killed two friends while driving drunk in 2011.

Lacasse convicted of impaired driving causing death following 2011 accident

Tommy Lacasse was originally sentenced to six years and six months in prison for impaired driving causing death. (Radio-Canada)

Canada's top court has confirmed the stiff sentence handed down to a young man from Quebec's Beauce region who killed two friends while driving drunk.

Tommy Lacasse was first sentenced to six and a half years in prison for a high-speed crash in June 2011.

Last year, the Quebec Court of Appeal reduced the term, saying the sentence given by Quebec Court Judge Hubert Couture was excessive.

At issue was whether Couture was right in handing down a stiff sentence to send a message specifically to people in the Beauce, because he thought there was too much impaired driving there.

The Supreme Court upheld the lower court ruling, concluding that sentencing judges should be given a "wide latitude" because they're the ones who hear witnesses and evidence first-hand.

"The sentence of six years and six months' imprisonment imposed by the trial judge, although severe, falls within the overall range of sentences normally imposed in Quebec and elsewhere in the country and is not demonstrably unfit. It must therefore be restored," Supreme Court Justice Richard Wagner wrote for the majority.

On June 17, 2011, Lacasse, who was 18 at the time, lost control of his vehicle while travelling at a high speed in Sainte-Aurélie at around 4 a.m..

The two passengers in the back of the vehicle, Nadia Pruneau, who was celebrating her 18th birthday, and Caroline Fortier, 17, died instantly in the crash.

Couture handed Lacasse his original, lengthier sentence for driving while intoxicated causing death in October 2013.

Former Quebec Justice Minister Marc Bellemare publicly criticized the reduced sentence and asked current Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée to bring the case to the Supreme Court.

Marie-Claude Morin, spokesperson for the Quebec branch of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, praised the ruling. 

She said it could mean judges in future cases won't be as hesitant to go "a little bit above what is the norm in cases where it's required."

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