Nova Scotia

Drunk driver's photo sent to liquor store employees

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation says it will warn its staff about a convicted drunk driver who killed a teenager in a car crash, after her family requested his photo be provided in liquor stores.

Family of victim wants agency to share photo of Michael Gerard Cooper in liquor stores

Angela Smits, 19, and her 20-year-old boyfriend, Michael MacLean. were killed by a drunk driver in May 2004. (Archive)

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) says it will warn its staff about a convicted drunk driver who killed a teenager in a car crash, after her family requested his photo be provided in liquor stores.

Michael Gerard Cooper was released from Dorchester Penitentiary on Tuesday after serving his seven-year sentence for the deaths of Angela Smits, 19, and her 20-year-old boyfriend, Michael MacLean.

Cooper told the Parole Board of Canada he would not stop drinking and driving, prompting police in Halifax to warn the public he's a high risk to reoffend.

Gerard Smits, Angela's father, has been pressing to have Cooper's name and photo distributed to Nova Scotia liquor stores.

Smits said he wants bars to be aware of Cooper and restrictions placed on him so that he won't able to purchase alcohol. Through his lawyer, he made the request to the NSLC, the province's Utility and Review Board and the Alcohol and Gaming Division.

The Utility and Review Board, which licenses liquor establishments, said it is reviewing the unusual request. Paul Allen, the board's spokesman, said he has never seen any such appeal in the 26 years he has been there.

Cooper is barred from consuming, purchasing and possessing alcohol and entering any place alcohol is sold or consumed. He is under a curfew and is barred from driving for life.

Smits said a warning is not enough.

Michael Gerard Cooper, 55, was released from prison on Tuesday after serving a seven-year sentence for drinking and driving causing the deaths of two young people in 2004. (Halifax Regional Police)

"It's too easy to access a set of keys from somebody and drive a car even though you have a 99-year driving ban. It's too easy, especially in the Halifax area, to walk into any bar or liquor store," said Smits.

He said distributing Cooper's photo is about preventing future tragedies.

"At least that will help a little bit to keep the public safe from this person's behaviour," he said.

"He knows he can't have alcohol and he knows he can't obtain it. He knows he's not allowed to have it in his system, but he still says he's going to go out and do it. You can't watch the guy 24 hours a day."

Smits said having the NSLC distribute Cooper's photo in stores would "speak volumes on their behalf. It shows that they have hearts like everybody else."

A spokesperson for the corporation said it will notify staff and stores through an intranet system, but won't display Cooper's photo publicly. The NSLC said it believes it is following the spirit of the family's request.

Couple killed in May 2004

Cooper was convicted of two counts of impaired driving in 2007 following the accident on May 14, 2004. Cooper had spent hours drinking at a bar in St. Peter's, N.S., and began driving home when he crossed the centre line. He collided with MacLean's car, killing the young couple on scene.

He was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison along with a 99-year ban on driving. He was also handed 22 conditions.

But at hearings with the Parole Board of Canada, Cooper said he would not stop drinking and driving.

"You admitted to your pattern of drinking and driving and stated that you would likely consume alcohol and drive a motor vehicle regardless of whether or not a special condition or a court order was imposed," a parole board official wrote last March after a hearing that denied early release.

"Your lack of progress during the past year has been demonstrated by your continued rigid thinking to the effect that you cannot commit to refraining from impaired driving."

With files from The Canadian Press


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