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Young man guilty of careless driving causing death of cyclist

Crown and defence jointly recommends a $5,000 fine and a 12-month driving suspension
The Sault Ste. Marie Court House is pictured on July 21, 2022.

A young man pleaded guilty Monday to careless driving causing death stemming from a fatal collision that took the life of a cyclist in the summer of 2020.

Matthew White, 21, was convicted of the Highway Traffic Act offence when he appeared in a Sault Ste. Marie courtroom for the continuation of his trial, which began earlier this year.

Ontario Court Justice Romuald Kwolek heard cyclist Larry Roberts was southbound on Peoples Road, which was illuminated by lights, shortly before midnight on June 26, 2020.

The 48-year-old man was wearing dark clothing and had no helmet, Crown prosecutor Carl Lem, who is based in Ottawa, told the court via Zoom.

The accused was driving a white Toyota, and hit Roberts from behind.

He stopped a couple of hundred metres down the road

Roberts sustained catastrophic injuries, was transported to Sault Area Hospital and succumbed to them at 1:20 a.m. on June 27.

He died from multiple injuries, including acute injuries to his head, multiple fractures to legs and spine, a collapsed lung and blood loss.

Lem said this resolution of the matter was the subject of consideration, including consultation with the victim's family, and "was not taken lightly."

He called it realistic given the criminal case issues and the court's earlier ruling that police had breached White's Charter rights.

The Crown and defence jointly recommended that White receive a $5,000 fine and a 12-month driving suspension.

Bruce Willson said this falls within the usual range with these facts.

"My client had had his life on hold for the past couple years and is now going to move on to college," he told Kwolek.

White was 19 at the time of the incident and was just finishing high school.

When he imposed the sentence, Kwolek said it is appropriate under the Provincial Offences Act.

The judge noted White had spent a short time in custody when he was arrested and charged with Criminal Code offences in connection with the collision.

As well, he has no prior record and there was no indication of any difficulties since then.

Kwolek gave him 24 months to pay the $5,000 fine and surcharges.

The end result will be a total of $6,255, assistant Crown attorney Matthew Caputo told the court.

At the request of the Crown, the Criminal Code counts were withdrawn.

Kwolek said this was a recognition that were some triable issues.

"Hopefully, you will never be back before the court again," he told the young man.

White was arrested for driving while impaired with a drug or alcohol causing death, and dangerous driving causing death following the collision.

Six months later, police announced he had been charged with impaired operation by a drug, as well as the dangerous driving count.

At trial, White pleaded not guilty to the charges.

During a voir dire hearing that took place on two days in March and four days in May of this year, Kwolek heard a number of Charter applications brought by the defence.

Willson and Anthony Orazietti sought, under four sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to have evidence excluded from the trial.

This evidence included blood samples, videos taken at the police station, and breath samples following the accused's arrest.

After hearing evidence from a number of city police offices, and Crown and defence arguments, Kwolek released his decision on June 22.

He found multiple instances of Charter breaches, which had "a significant impact" on White's protected rights.

Kwolek granted the defence application to exclude all incriminating evidence provided following White's arrests, including the breath and blood samples.

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About the Author: Linda Richardson

Linda Richardson is a freelance journalist who has been covering Sault Ste. Marie's courts and other local news for more than 45 years.
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