Many possible reasons for guilty plea in Humboldt Broncos crash, prof says

There are many possible reasons that could explain why the semi driver in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash pleaded guilty in court Tuesday, according to a legal expert.

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu pleaded guilty Tuesday to 29 charges related to the April 6, 2018 crash

Semi driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu pleaded guilty to all charges relating to the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. Sixteen people were killed and 13 others were injured. (Jason Warick/CBC)

There are many possible reasons that could explain why the semi driver in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash pleaded guilty in court Tuesday, according to a legal expert.

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu was charged with multiple counts of dangerous driving after 16 people were killed and 13 others injured in April 2018. He pleaded guilty to all charges Tuesday in Melfort provincial court.

Sidhu's lawyer, Mark Brayford, said Sidhu knows he was wrong and wants to save victim's families the pain of a trial.

"His position to me was, 'I just want to plead guilty.' Mr. Sidhu advised me, 'I don't want to make things any worse,' " Brayford told reporters outside court Tuesday.

University of Ottawa professor Jennifer Quaid said there are many possible reasons the semi driver in the Humboldt Broncos crash pleaded guilty Tuesday. (University of Ottawa)

University of Ottawa professor Jennifer Quaid commended Sidhu for doing the right thing.

"It just seems this has been weighing on him. He feels terrible and wants the families to be able to move on," Quaid said in an interview Wednesday with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

Quaid said his legal team also likely considered the evidence against him. 

"It's also probably the right thing legally for him to do because he was running the risk of being found guilty after a trial," she said. "It looked to me that might have been part of the decision as well."

Quaid referenced a five-page preliminary statement of fact obtained by CBC News Wednesday. It stated Sidhu had not been drinking or using his cellphone. 

Quaid said it points clearly to driver error, rather than environmental factors such as ice or sun glare.

She emphasized she has no unique knowledge of the case, but said it appears there has been no "deal" between the defence and Crown. There was no joint recommendation on the sentence.

Quaid said it will be a "challenging" process for the judge. The driver almost certainly didn't mean to do any harm, but the results of his actions were extremely tragic, she said.

"It's really, really hard to know," she said.

Scott Thomas, whose son, Evan, was killed in the crash, said Tuesday that Sidhu was wrong and the crash was his fault. Thomas said he appreciated the guilty plea and that it will save the families the pain of a trial.

Thomas said no punishment for Sidhu will bring back his son and the others.

"If he spends 10 years, [that] time is irrelevant. He was guilty, and he acknowledged that," Thomas said.

Sidhu's sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin Jan. 28 at 10 a.m.CST at the Kerry Vickar Centre in Melfort. Five days have been set aside to hear all of the expected arguments and victim impact statements from family members.

Courts of Saskatchewan is advising anyone planning to attend the sentencing to arrive early, as there will be security screening. 

with files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning

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