[h3]Chronic drunk driver handed life sentence[/h3]
A chronic drunk driver has received a life sentence for killing a wheelchair-bound Quebec woman with his minivan, though he has escaped being labelled as a dangerous offender.
Roger Walsh, 57, was sentenced in a Quebec court on Wednesday morning, for killing Anee Khudaverdian with his minivan last fall.
Crown lawyer Joey Davis said it was the first time that a Canadian court had sentenced a drunk driver to life in prison.
The victim was run down in her wheelchair on her 47th birthday in October 2008.
The mother of a seven-year-old girl was propelled into a ditch after being hit by Walsh's minivan.
Walsh was arrested about 10 kilometres from the site where Khudaverdian was hit -- a spot where Walsh also ended up in a ditch. He had been binge drinking that night.
In December, Walsh pleaded guilty to hit-and-run causing death, impaired driving causing death, and violating a court order that barred him from drinking. It was the 19th time that he had been convicted for impaired driving. He also has 114 prior convictions for assault, uttering threats, breaking and entering, as well as theft.
The Crown had been seeking to have Walsh declared as a dangerous offender, but the judge did not give him that designation on Wednesday.
The sentence handed down by Quebec court judge Michel Mercier was greater than the 20 years that had been requested by the Crown. Walsh's lawyer had suggested a 10-year sentence.
The judge said Walsh was incorrigible and likely to reoffend.
Following the sentencing, the victim's sister said she was pleased with the verdict.
"We still made history today, we made history for my sister," Clara Khudaverdian said Wednesday.
"We didn't get dangerous offender (designation) and, in this case, I think it was difficult for the judge to render the decision because the law is unclear."
The case involving Walsh marked the third time that Canadian Crown prosecutors had sought a dangerous offender designation for drunk drivers -- but no Canadian judge has ever approved the request.
Walsh's lawyer, Jacques Vinet, said it was surprising that the sentence had exceeded what both he and the Crown had asked for.
But he wasn't surprised that the judge declined to declare his client as a dangerous offender.
Vinet said he would be consulting with Walsh as to whether to appeal the sentence.
Earlier Wednesday, Clara Khudaverdian said it was time for Canadians to realize that drunk driving is an issue that impacts people just as bluntly as violent crimes that result in loss of life.
The Montreal sociologist said that we tend not to perceive impaired driving as a serious crime.
"It's not like murder, or rape, or any of these big crimes where we hear about it and it's like: 'Oh my God,'" Khudaverdian told CTV's Canada AM during a telephone interview from Dollard-Des-Ormeaux, Que.
"This is a more serious crime, it actually kills more people than guns or knives do. We don't seem to take it seriously."
Updated Wed. Sep. 9 2009 12:38 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff