Nova Scotia

Teen joyrider sentenced as adult

The teenager who drove the stolen car that crashed into Theresa McEvoy, killing her instantly, has been sentenced as an adult.

The teenager who drove the stolen car that crashed into Theresa McEvoy, killing her instantly, has been sentenced as an adult.

Archibald Billard, 17, from Dartmouth, was sentenced Wednesday to 4½ years in prison for his role in the crash that killed the Halifax teacher's aide on Oct. 14, 2004.

The sentence takes into account the 276 days the teenager has already served at the Waterville youth detention centre.

Judge James Burrill said the 4½-year sentence addresses the need to protect the public and hold Billard accountable, while at the same time giving him a shot at rehabilitation.

Joe McEvoy, Theresa's brother, is pleased the teen got an adult sentence.

"Given the circumstances of this case, a lengthy sentence is appropriate to express the community's denunciation of what has occurred," he told reporters outside the courtroom.

"It is important that a strong message be sent that violent acts such as this will not be tolerated."

Billard pleaded guilty last year to criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving while evading police.

Although his lawyer recommended the maximum three-year jail term for a youth, the Crown asked the judge to consider the crash a violent offence and pushed for a six-year adult sentence.

Prosecutor Gary Holt said Wednesday the adult sentence is better for the public because it means Billard will stay in touch with parole officers for longer than he would have as a youth.

"You're talking a year and a half or a 50 per cent increase where there is going to be some sort of supervision of this person," Holt said.

The teenager can potentially stay in jail until he turns 20, but he could be released much sooner. Parole rules for federal adult sentences say Billard could apply for early release in a year and a half.

During the sentencing hearing, the court heard how Billard, 16 at the time, stole a car in Lower Sackville then smoked marijuana with friends before driving into Halifax.

He was so stoned that he couldn't tell how hard he was pressing the accelerator when he crashed into McEvoy's car. Police estimate he was going well over 100 km/h.

Doctors said McEvoy, 52, a mother of three, died instantly.

Billard gave a videotaped statement to police, saying he wished he had died instead of McEvoy. He wrote a letter of apology to her family.

A psychiatrist who spoke at the hearing, Dr. Mark Johnston, said his patient has made little or no progress in the year he's been held at the youth detention centre in Waterville.

Now that the teen has been sentenced, McEvoy's family will focus on getting some answers about the circumstances surrounding the car crash.

Billard was released by a Windsor court two days before the fatal crash, even though there was a warrant out for his arrest on 26 charges in Halifax.

Shortly after McEvoy's death, provincial Justice Minister Michael Baker ordered a review of the case, which determined two prosecutors should have done more to keep the boy in custody.

An inquiry is underway to look at how police, lawyers and court officials handled charges against the teen in the days leading up to his release on Oct. 12, 2004, and the circumstances of the crash that killed McEvoy.