Dangerous Vernon driver gets less jail time because of police mistakes | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Dangerous Vernon driver gets less jail time because of police mistakes

March 04, 2021 - 7:00 AM

His dangerous driving has already left a Vernon nurse paralyzed from the neck down but six years later, he was back before a judge for dangerous driving again.

And Michael Timothy George Heeley would have been sentenced to a long jail sentence yesterday, March 3, if police didn't violate his Charter rights. 

Heeley appeared by video at the Vernon courthouse and was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty to driving at 125 kilometres an hour in a 50 km zone and fleeing from police following a roadside stop.

Crown prosecutor Brock Bellrichard didn't elaborate on what took place, only telling the court that some Charter issues “arose” in terms of Heeley's access to a lawyer when at the roadside and some "inappropriate questioning" was made by a police officer.

"That ultimately led to some further evidence that the Crown's not going to be relying on," Bellrichard said. "Consequently as a result of those Charter issues... Crown agreed to a position of a six-month jail sentence."

The court heard that in December 2019 Heeley had left the Longhorn Pub in Vernon in a vehicle and was pulled over immediately by the RCMP for a routine sobriety test.

However, Heeley fled in his vehicle towards Tronson Road regularly hitting speeds of 95 km/h in the 50 km zone. He then headed to Bella Vista Road and continued at similar speeds on the windy road. Police radar clocked him doing 125 km/h at one point before he spun out into a ditch. He took off on foot but was soon arrested.

The 27-year-old was charged with dangerous driving, fleeing police, possession for the purpose of trafficking, possession of a dangerous weapon and driving while disqualified.

However, the possession for the purpose of trafficking charge was downgraded to a charge of simple possession and the dangerous weapon and driving while disqualified charges were stayed by the Crown.

Heeley already knew too well the potential consequences of driving like that. 

In 2015, Heeley was sentenced to three years in jail and banned from driving for 10 years for criminal negligence causing bodily harm after he crashed into Vernon nurse Robin Orcherton in December 2014. The afternoon crash left Orcherton paralyzed from the neck down.

Orcherton told the court at the time she had been given a life sentence worse than jail and she would never again be able to hug her husband and children.

But while Heeley's previous record would ordinarily mean that as a repeat offender his sentence would be harsher, the Charter violations changed this.

The Crown prosecutor said this was the same sentence Heeley had received in 2013 for a separate dangerous driving incident.

The court heard how Heeley suffered from alcoholism and his sister had died of a drug overdose shortly before the 2019 incident.

Although not discussed in court, Heeley appeared from custody having been arrested Jan. 3, for a separate matter.

Court records show he is facing nine charges including assault and pointing a weapon at an individual following an incident on New Year's Day in Vernon.

With time already served Heeley will spend another 87 days in jail on this matter.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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