Stiffer penalties needed for impaired driving, says Wabush mayor

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“There's no difference in me taking a gun and shooting somebody as me getting behind a wheel and killing somebody”

Jeremy Reid was sentenced in Wabush last April and released to day parole after seven months. Wabush mayor Ron Barron hopes municipalities will join him in asking the governments to stiffen penalties.

The mayor of Wabush wants to see stiffer penalties for drinking and driving.

Ron Barron, mayor, has received support from council for letters to be written to the municipalities in the province, urging them to ask the provincial and federal government to change the sentencing for drinking and driving offenses.

Council will also bring the letter to public sessions, asking residents to do the same.

“It’s unacceptable in this day and age to have people drink and drive, when lives are taken and lives are ruined.”

Barron said the letter was inspired by the Jeremy Reid case. Jeremy Reid was driving drunk when he struck Shane Mercer and his girlfriend Leisa Penney in Wabush while the couple was walking home. Mercer died two weeks later and Penney is still recovering from her injuries.

Reid pleaded guilty to two charges in April and was sentenced to four years in prison. On November 20, he was granted parole and is staying at a halfway house in Stephenville.

“For someone to walk out of jail after 18 months is a crying shame,” Barron said.

Barron is asking councils to support the provincial and federal government to change existing laws currently in place for drinking and driving with stiffer penalties and jail sentences, as well as longer mandatory time in jail in instances of death and injury to other people.

“I’m all about rehabilitation and bringing people back to a normal life in society. But when lives are taken, what kind of normalcy does the families of lost loved ones have? They don't; it's there forever. I believe if you choose to drink and drive those consequences should be there forever.”

Barron said driving is a privilege that should be taken away if abused.

“When people are involved in an incident where people are killed, they should never hold a valid drivers license again. You have to learn that it's not acceptable.”

Early parole should not be an option, Barron said.

“If the mandatory sentencing is increased, whatever the magic number is, then this is the actual length of time they have to spend in jail. Even the parole board’s decision making, some of that has to be tightened up a bit.”

Barron said the amount of court dockets and cases still coming in relating to impaired drivers is proof that change is needed.

“There has got to be consequences, and they have to be severe enough that you're going to think long and hard before getting behind the wheel.”

Barron plans to have the letter drafted within the week, and could take a few months before reaching every municipalities council meeting.

“There's no difference in me taking a gun and shooting somebody as me getting behind a wheel and killing somebody. There's no difference. You don't see people walking out of jail after 18 months after shooting somebody. Taking a life is taking a life.”

reporter@theaurora.ca

Geographic location: Wabush, Stephenville

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