Saskatchewan

Read the judge's full sentencing decision for the truck driver in the Humboldt Broncos crash

Sidhu was sentenced to eight years in prison today, for his part in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in April of last year.

Judge Inez Cardinal handed down the sentence on March 22, 2019

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, the driver of the semi truck involved in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, was sentenced to eight years in prison. (Susan Ormiston/CBC)

The truck driver who caused the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash a year ago was sentenced to eight years in prison Friday in a Melfort, Sask., court.

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, 30, pleaded guilty in January to 29 counts of dangerous driving causing death or bodily injury. Sidhu lived in Calgary and was working for a Calgary-based trucking company at the time of the crash. 

Judge Inez Cardinal expressed empathy for the victims' families as she read out her sentencing decision.

Below is the transcript of her analysis and conclusion:

Analysis

I approach this matter with the recognition that no sentence I impose will make the victims or families whole again or ease the suffering they endure. Nothing can turn back the clock and return the victims, the families, or Mr. Sidhu to the place they were before this tragedy unfolded. 

This collision was avoidable. Jaskirat Singh Sidhu was solely responsible for this collision as evidenced by the forensic accident report. He missed key indicators of an approaching intersection, and his prolonged inattention resulted in the deaths of sixteen people and caused bodily harm to thirteen others. 

I accept that Mr. Sidhu did not deliberately drive through the intersection in the sense that he was trying to meet a deadline or that he was running late. However, the focus cannot simply be upon what occurred at the intersection. I must consider everything that led up to his driving through the intersection and the resulting catastrophic collision. 

As he approached the intersection, Mr. Sidhu had a clear view of the scene in front of him. Nothing was blocking his view as the trees in the south-east quadrant were not an issue. However, he failed to take note of the approaching intersection, the approaching bus, or the five signs indicating an intersection with a stop sign was ahead. Had he done so, he should have made the conscious decision to start adjusting his driving so as to do what was required in the immediate future - to bring his large, heavy rig to a complete stop at the intersection. 

Despite its large size and weight, the semi-tractor and trailers could be brought to a stop in a short distance. Calculations were done to determine the "distance to skid" in a panic braking situation, based on the perception-reaction time of 1.5 seconds for a sober, rested driver (Report, page 44). This showed that at 86 km/h Mr. Sidhu could have stopped his rig in 99.61 meters. At 96 km/h, in a panic braking situation, the unit could have been brought to a stop in 119.10 meters. 

Using these calculations, and as illustrated by the chart at page 43 of the Report, Mr. Sidhu had ample time to react - over 400 meters and nearly 15 to 17 seconds – as he approached the intersection, had he been paying attention. As noted at page 44 of the Report, had he been travelling at 86 km/h, and only noticed the sign "Highway 35 South/Highway 335 West/Highway 35 North" immediately before the stop sign, and reacted by making a threshold braking application, the collision would not have occurred. This fourth sign was 104.3 meters east of the stop sign so the semi would have skidded to a stop before reaching the stop sign. Even if the semi was traveling at a speed of 96 km/h, it would have skidded past the stop sign, and the impact would have been narrowly, but completely, avoided. 

The semi-tractor unit with its "Super B" configuration was a huge, heavy, and deadly vehicle. It was made even more so by an inexperienced operator in unfamiliar territory who was not giving his full attention to the road ahead of him. He continued past the stop sign without any attempt at braking or evasive action. His large unit straddled both lanes of the highway and left no avenue of escape for the bus. 

It is baffling, and incomprehensible, that a professional driver, even one with little experience, could miss so many markers over such a long distance. His inattention displays risky behaviour given he saw the signs but they did not register because he continued to focus on the trailers behind him. 

I find Mr. Sidhu's moral blameworthiness to be high, especially considering his prolonged inattentiveness while operating a large, loaded semi and the tragic consequences that flowed from his actions. These offences require a strong message of deterrence and denunciation be sent to ensure Mr. Sidhu never operates a vehicle in such a dangerous manner, and that others, especially operators of large vehicles, understand that the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle will result in lengthy sentences of imprisonment. 

Somehow we must stop this carnage on our highways. It should not take an event such as this to make people realize that operating a motor vehicle requires the full attention of the driver. Stop signs must be obeyed and everyone, regardless of what type of motor vehicle they are operating, must come to a complete stop before proceeding. As is apparent in this case and the cases noted, seconds matter. Attention to the road matters.

Conclusion

Arriving at a just and appropriate sanction requires a balancing of the relevant principles of sentencing, keeping in mind the overall sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. Having considered all of the sentencing principles outlined in the Code, the circumstances of the offence and the offender, aggravating and mitigating circumstances, as well as other sentences given to other offenders in similar circumstances, I find that a significant period of incarceration is warranted. 

 If it can be said that there is a sentencing range outlined by the case law for these offences in Saskatchewan or Canada, based on the cases cited, then this case is clearly outside that range. The longest sentence handed down was in Saini, being six years' incarceration, after trial, where four died and nine were injured. Even taking into account Mr. Sidhu's guilty pleas, and even if it could be said his moral blameworthiness was less because his actions were not deliberate, a sentence of more than six years is mandated due to the horrific consequences of his actions. 

Concurrent sentences are appropriate, rather than consecutive, given the offences all arise from the same circumstances. The principles of totality and restraint also guide this decision. I prefer to assign a significant sentence and order all sentences concurrent to each other. If I were to order Mr. Sidhu to serve even short periods of incarceration consecutive to each other, it would not send the same message as a single, lengthy sentence, and would otherwise result in an unduly long and harsh sentence given the number of counts in the information. 

On count one, dangerous driving causing death, I sentence Mr. Sidhu to eight years' incarceration. On each of counts 2 through 16, inclusive, the remaining counts of dangerous driving causing death, I impose sentences of eight years' incarceration, concurrent to count 1 and concurrent to each other. 

On each of counts 17 through 29, inclusive, being the thirteen counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm, I sentence Mr. Sidhu to five years' incarceration, concurrent to each other and concurrent to counts 1 through 16 inclusive. 

Ancillary Orders

There are ancillary orders in the Criminal Code that flow from a conviction for dangerous driving causing death or bodily harm. Driving prohibitions are discretionary orders for each offence in the information. Pursuant to s. 259(2)(b), I exercise my discretion and, on count 1 make an order prohibiting Mr. Sidhu from operating a motor vehicle on any street, road, highway or other public place in Canada. This order starts today and is for a period of ten years plus any period to which he is sentenced to imprisonment. 
 
These convictions are secondary designated offences for which an order for forensic DNA analysis may be made at the discretion of the sentencing judge. In exercising my discretion, I conclude it is in the best interests of the administration of justice to make an order considering the factors as contained within s. 487.051 (3) of the Criminal Code. These factors include the nature of the offences, the circumstances surrounding their commission and the impact such an order would have on Mr. Sidhu's privacy and security of person. Therefore, on count 1, I make an order in Form 5.04 for the taking of bodily samples from Mr. Sidhu for the purpose of DNA analysis. I give the authorities 30 days from today to obtain those samples. 

In addition, a firearms prohibition is mandatory pursuant to s. 109(1)(a) and 109(2) of the Code. On count 1, I make an order prohibiting Mr. Sidhu from possessing any firearm, other than a prohibited firearm or restricted firearm, and any cross-bow, restricted weapon, ammunition and explosive substance during the period that begins today and ends ten years after his release from imprisonment. Further, I make an order prohibiting him from possessing any prohibited firearm, restricted firearm, prohibited weapon, prohibited device and prohibited ammunition for life. I make the same orders on counts 2 through 29, inclusive, concurrent to count 1 and concurrent to each other. 

Read a PDF of the report below:

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