Defence argues against mandatory sentence

A mentally ill and impaired driver who was involved in a crash was given the mandatory four-month sentence despite arguments by his defence lawyer in Sarnia court.

David Stewart Gamble, 60, of Sarnia previously pleaded guilty to the Aug. 7, 2014 care or control of a vehicle while impaired by drugs and alcohol, along with driving while disqualified. But sentencing was delayed until Monday.

On Monday, Gamble pleaded guilty to driving without insurance on Aug. 7.

On Aug. 7 the Sarnia man had struck another vehicle on a Sarnia street. He drove away while being followed by the driver of the damaged vehicle. Damage to the vehicle was estimated at $4,200.

After Gamble stopped, the other driver took the keys to Gamble’s vehicle and called police.

While Gamble’s blood alcohol level was slightly below the legal limit, it was determined he was impaired. Gamble had been unsteady and he fell asleep while in police custody.

Gamble takes medication for his mental illness and was told by his doctor not to mix alcohol with his medication.

At the time of the offence there was a six-pack of beer in the vehicle with one container missing. Also in the vehicle was a notice that Gamble’s driver’s licence was suspended.

Gamble had three prior convictions for drinking-and-driving offences, along with driving while disqualified convictions.

Based on the record, Gamble had been given a notice that the Crown would be seeking an increased penalty, which triggered the mandatory minimum jail sentence of four months.

The mandatory sentence legislation does not provide for people with mental illness in cases like Gamble’s, said defence lawyer Patricia Brown.

Brown, who referred to a psychiatrist’s letter, asked for Gamble’s jail time to be served on weekends or at a treatment centre because, she said, he would victimized in jail.

If Gamble serves four months, his disability pension would be stopped, leading to the loss of his home because he will not be able to make rent payments, said Brown.

“He needs help . . . He has suffered from a significant addiction (to alcohol) for a significant portion of his life,” said Brown.

“My hands are tied,” said Justice Jonathon George.

Ontario’s appeal court has ruled in accordance with a Supreme Court decision that mandatory sentences must be imposed.

A house arrest sentence served at a treatment facility is not available and neither is the possibility for weekend jail time that must be 90 days or less.

George also told Brown she was singing to the choir when she urged him to impose an alternative sentence, but public safety was also a sentencing concern.

“He’s (Gamble) ill. He needs help. Jail would be counterproductive,” said George.

The best he could do was 120 days, including the equivalent of 24 days Gamble had served in pre-sentence custody, said George.

A $2,500 fine, which is half of the $5,000 minimum for the insurance offence, was imposed due to a provision in the law that allows for reduction of the minimum fine for provincial offences.

A two-year driving ban was also imposed.