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Victim's family embraces driver involved in Victoria motorcyclist's death

Apr 24 2012

The family of Victoria musician Richard (John) Caspell, who died following a collision in Victoria three years ago, stood in Western Communities Court Monday and tearfully embraced the woman whose SUV struck him down as he rode a motorcycle.

Cheryl Gervais pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention after the Crown reduced the charge from dangerous driving causing death.

During the sentencing hearing Monday, provincial court judge Ernie Quantz fined Gervais, 39, the minimum $100, "a fine that shouldn't be viewed as trivializing the harm caused."

Gervais will not face a one-year prohibition because she voluntarily gave up driving for a year to pay her respects to the accident victim, court heard. She volunteered with the B.C. SPCA because that was a cause Caspell believed in, and bought the family a tree to be planted in John's memory.

Gervais has spoken publicly to groups large and small about the dangerous combination of cellphones and driving.

Caspell, 57, was heading on his motorcycle to a meeting on April 26, 2009, when he was struck by Gervais's SUV, and thrown 10 metres, at the intersection of Government and Bay streets.

The worst of his injuries was a badly fractured ankle and the surgeon declared him to be a very lucky man, all things considered. He went to the operating room on May 1 and the next day, he was encouraged to stand.

Caspell felt light-headed and his heart stopped.

Twenty minutes later, he was pronounced dead. A blood clot had lodged in his lung.

Gervais told the police that although she had not been texting before the accident, she was distracted by her cellphone. She was given a ticket for driving without due care and attention.

When Caspell died, that ticket was revoked and Gervais, the mother of a young child, was charged with dangerous driving causing death, a charge that carries a maximum prison term of 14 years.

Paul Caspell, John's brother, learned of Gervais's situation and began looking into the restorative justice process, where the families of the victim meet with the offender to try to come up with a satisfactory punishment.

The idea was not to replace a judicial decision but to find ways for Gervais and the Caspells to begin healing, court heard.

The Caspell family didn't want Gervais to go to jail, and the Crown subsequently withdrew the dangerous-driving charge and reinstated the lesser charge of driving without due care and attention. Gervais pleaded guilty.

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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