New Brunswick

Boyd Atkinson's drunk driving causing death appeal rejected

The harshest sentence ever in New Brunswick for impaired driving causing death has been upheld by the New Brunswick Court of Appeal.

Court of Appeal upholds province's stiffest sentence ever for impaired driving causing death

The harshest sentence ever in New Brunswick for impaired driving causing death has been upheld by the New Brunswick Court of Appeal.

The province's highest court dismissed Boyd Atkinson's appeal of his 10-year sentence in a ruling released Thursday.

Kathy Horsman, a Moncton teacher and mother of two, was killed in a head-on crash in Moncton on April 17, 2013. (Courtesy of Ferguson Knowles Funeral Home)
Atkinson pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death and impaired driving causing bodily harm in connection with an April 17, 2013, incident when he was driving drunk and killed teacher Kathy Horsman in a head-on collision on Berry Mills Road.

Atkinson was sentenced to concurrent terms of 10 years — reduced to nine years and five months to account for time spent in custody — on the impaired driving causing death charge and three years on the lesser charge involving causing bodily harm.

He was 42 at the time of sentencing in November 2013.

The appeal court judgement notes no one has identified a New Brunswick case where anyone received a sentence of 10 years for impaired driving causing death.

Atkinson appealed the sentence, claiming it is "clearly unreasonable and not in keeping with sentences customarily imposed for crimes of this kind."

In rejecting Atkinson's appeal, the decision written by Mr. Justice J.C. Marc Richard states, "This case presents an opportunity for this court to loudly denounce the conduct of repeat offenders who would, as did Mr. Atkinson, have callous disregard for the life of others.

"It is also an opportunity to confirm a sentence that not only meets the objective of denunciation but may also serve to deter those who might otherwise be inclined to engage in conduct which the Supreme Court of Canada has acknowledged '[each year] … leaves a terrible trail of death, injury heartbreak and destruction.'"

In reviewing the facts of the case, the court noted Atkinson was driving while while suspended and had a blood alcohol level of between 275 milligrams and 295 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. Driving with more than 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood is a criminal offence.

The car Atkinson was driving crossed the centre lane and went all the way onto the left eastbound lane, a full two lanes over from the westbound lane it was supposed to be travelling in.

"It was at that moment that Mr. Atkinson collided with Ms. Horsman's vehicle as she slowed down and moved to her right, partly onto the shoulder of the road, evidently in an attempt to avoid the oncoming Grand Am."

 Mr. Atkinson gambled with Ms.  Horsman's  life. It is she who lost.- N.B. Court of Appeal ruling

Atkinson's car was equipped with a diagnostic module that indicated he was driving at 136 km/h and accelerating just prior to impact.

Atkinson did not brake before impact. The speed limit in the area is 60 km/h.

Atkinson had four previous convictions on charges related to impaired driving.

"It cannot be said that a sentence of imprisonment for 10 years is disproportionate to the gravity of the offence," states the Court of Appeal.

"Mr. Atkinson, after all, killed a young mother of two.

"To borrow from the trial judge, Mr. Atkinson gambled with Ms. Horsman's life. It is she who lost.

"This was a terrible, and entirely preventable, tragedy for which he is solely responsible."

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