Louis Perentes’ family struggles with lenient penalty after bus driver hits and kills senior
|globalnews.ca 19 Jun 2017 at 11:15|
Overlooking the intersection of Parliament Avenue and Rae Street in Regina is a cross adorned with red flowers and the word “father.” It was mounted by brothers Chris and Bill Perentes as a reminder of what happened at the crossing in the fall of 2013.
On Sept. 30 of that year, 80-year-old Louis Perentes was walking from the Golden Mile Mall back to his nearby home. He had made the trek countless times. In retirement, Perentes regularly met up with friends for coffee at the mall’s food court. Before his retirement, he owned the Golden Plaza Restaurant in the same mall for 26 years.
But as the elderly Perentes crossed the street, heading westbound along Parliament Avenue, a City of Regina bus turned left onto Rae Street and struck him in broad daylight.
Moments later, his son Bill happened to drive past the scene with his daughter in the vehicle.
“Life took me to that intersection. Usually I take the Ring Road but there was some construction. I came down Parliament that day for the first time probably ever. Something brought me by there I guess,” Perentes recalled.
“I had a really bad feeling… my knees kind of started shaking when I saw [the scene]. I went home and said ‘Mom, is Dad here’? She said ‘No, he’s just having coffee at the mall.’ I said ‘I’ll be right back’.”
The family would later be told that Perentes was well into the intersection when he was hit. Louis was rushed to hospital but his injuries were too extensive.
“He had been hurt bad enough that we had to basically let him go. It was a difficult thing to do. You just don’t forget that sort of thing,” Chris Perentes said.
When the initial shock of losing their father wore off, the Perentes family would be shocked again when the bus driver went to court.
Trudi Mason of Lethbridge, Alta. was cycling with her best friend when a truck hit the both of them. Mason’s friend died. Mason says the court process ignores the fact a person was killed.
After a four month investigation, the Regina Police Service charged bus driver Darcy Allen Kluge with driving without due care and attention under the Traffic Safety Act.
The maximum penalty for that violation is $1,000 under current legislation. Kluge paid the fine and was back driving buses for the City of Regina by January 2014.
“We have confidence in this driver and in all of our drivers,” read a statement from the city.
The Perentes family — who believe the punishment does not fit the crime — explored options for further recourse. The brothers were told by a law firm not to waste their time.
“[We hoped for] some kind of lawsuit where there could be some form of punishment. Financial punishment or otherwise. In the end there was just a minor fine and not much else,” Chris Perentes said.
Prosecutors determined that there was not enough evidence to prove that Kluge was driving in a way that would constitute a criminal code charge like criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
There must be admissible evidence to establish all the elements of an offence. Different offences require the Crown prove different elements. For example, proceeding with a charge of criminal negligence causing bodily harm requires proving, among other things, a “wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.” Proceeding with a charge of driving without due care and attention does not require proving such disregard.
The statement went on to explain that prosecutors proceed with criminal code charges only when it is within the public’s interest and if there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction.
“Sometimes it is difficult to understand why the penalty doesn’t match the scope of the event itself. But the fact is, a charge can only be laid that is appropriate to the evidence,” police spokesperson Elizabeth Popowich said in December 2013.
Even though Louis Perentes was killed, the evidence did not support a criminal charge.
But when it comes to careless driving under the province’s Traffic Safety Act, the law does not take into account the fact that someone was killed.
Saskatchewan has made headlines in recent months for updating its impaired and distracted driving legislation by adding stiffer penalties.
Under the updated legislation, an impaired driver who blows .08 to .15 BAC would receive a fine of $1,250. Drivers caught with .16+ BAC receive a fine of $2,250.
If any impaired driver causes bodily harm or death, that fine becomes $2,500.
But if a sober person drives their vehicle without due care and kills someone in the street, that driver can only be fined $1,000 under the Traffic Safety Act.
Joe Hargrave, the minister responsible for SGI and the Traffic Safety Act, updated impaired and distracted driving laws to make them some of the stiffest in the country. He said he’s constantly looking for areas to improve.
“In my opinion, a life is priceless,” he said.
When asked if he’d consider changing legislation on careless driving to account for bodily harm and death, he said he’d be open to a review.
“That’s something that we’re more than prepared to look at. We’ve looked at a number of laws that we’ve changed. We’re looking at more constantly.”
“We’ve demonstrated we’re more than prepared to make our laws the toughest in Canada when it comes to anything to do with highway traffic and safety and saving people’s lives,” Hargrave said.
The Perentes family has learned to live with the reality that their father was killed with little in the way of punishment for the man who killed him. Brothers Chris and Bill said even an apology from the driver would have helped them reach closure. The family has never received one.
Now, the brother focus on remembering the good times with their hard-working, Greek immigrant father who loved working in his garden and having coffee with his friends. For Chris Perentes, it’s not up to him to change the legal system.
“We’re in Canada, we’re in Saskatchewan and those are the laws here. Unfortunately we have to go with what that is.”
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