Nine months in jail for Osoyoos driver responsible for collision that left woman paralyzed | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Nine months in jail for Osoyoos driver responsible for collision that left woman paralyzed

Osoyoos Indian Band resident Silous Paul was sentenced to nine months in jail after entering a guilty plea to dangerous driving causing bodily harm in Penticton court today, Dec. 18, 2020.
December 18, 2020 - 4:05 PM

Penticton Supreme Court heard heart wrenching stories of lives shattered during a sentencing hearing for a driver originally charged with five counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Silous J. Paul entered a guilty plea to a single charge of dangerous driving causing bodily harm prior to his hearing today, Dec. 18.

Crown prosecutor Nashina Devji told court Paul was travelling northbound in a Chrysler 400 on Highway 97 on the morning of July 21, 2017, when he crossed the centreline at a sharp corner of the highway along Vaseux Lake, colliding head on with a southbound GMC pickup containing four occupants after crossing the centreline.

Emergency personnel found an empty liquor bottle in Paul’s vehicle, and witnesses claimed Paul had been driving recklessly, crossing the double line on several occasions and almost colliding with another vehicle prior to the collision.

Paul, who was 19 at the time, was subjected to a sobriety test and was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.174, more than two times the legal limit. He was also a new driver and was not supposed to have any alcohol in his system while driving.

Court heard Paul had been on his way to Penticton to deal with a family incident when the collision occurred.

All four occupants of the vehicle struck by Paul were from Victoria, in the Okanagan to visit family and vacation. They all suffered various injuries, but none worse than Laurie Hamm who suffered a C-5 fracture of the spine and was left a quadriplegic.

A passenger in Paul’s vehicle was also injured.

“I’m a quadriplegic for the rest of my life,” Laurie said in her victim impact statement, recounting a long list of injuries suffered and subsequent treatment needed for the rest of her life.

She spent two months in Vancouver General and four months in spinal rehab and is now confined to a wheelchair.

“I feel cheated. I was healthy and fit. I’ve lost my spark," she told court.

“I’m a private person who grieves the loss of my independence. My physical and intimate relationship with Warren (her husband) has been deeply impacted," she said. "There’s a feeling of deep loss and sadness. I can no longer initiate touch. I don’t know if I’m touching Warren’s body, or if he’s touching mine. He takes care of me the first thing in the morning and is there the last thing at night. We no longer share a bed. I sleep in a hospital bed.”

Warren Hamm told court the recently retired couple had big plans for a life of leisure activities and travel that have all vanished.

“Every day, no exceptions, start with my wife’s care and ends with the help of a care aid at night. I was shocked at the staggering cost to take care of my wife, averaging $9,000 a month this year, and that was for less cost due to fewer care aids because of COVID-19,” Warren said.

Chuck Groot was driving the vehicle Paul hit and didn't mince words in his victim impact statement.

"Because of an imbecilic, selfish individual, many lives have been destroyed. Not only Laurie Hamm, Warren Hamm, Susan Carley, Chuck Groot, but our children, brothers, sisters and countless friends,” Groot said. “We have all suffered days, weeks, and months in the hospital, endured thousands of hours of pain that will stay with us for the rest of our lives."

Court also heard impact statements from the Hamm's two children.

Devji asked Judge Alison Beames to accept a joint submission for a sentence consisting of nine months of jail time followed by one year of probation and a three year driving suspension. She told court the victims were also open to restorative justice for Paul.

Devji said the Hamms were also asking for Paul to undertake 35 to 50 hours of community service in addition to reviewing a video produced by the victims. They also requested he write an essay explaining the impacts the collision had on the victims.

She said a pre-sentence report suggested Paul’s empathy for his victims was “somewhat limited.” She also noted that he had stopped drinking since the offence and had led a positive life up to the collision.

Defence lawyer Don Skogstad said a number of Osoyoos Indian Band members were present in court to support Paul, who lives on the reserve.

He also presented five letters of support from band members.

“He has no criminal record, no points on his license. The only incident he had was too many persons in the car on one occasion,” Skogstad said.

He said his client suffered a concussion, a broken femur and broken teeth in the collision, conceding the injuries were minor in comparison to the others.

Skogstad described his clients good character, noting a solid upbringing. He said Paul had received an award for saving his brother’s life at age 12, and served as a youth ambassador for the Osoyoos Indian Band.

On the morning of the incident, Skogstad said his client awoke after a night of drinking with friends to hear his cousin in Penticton had committed suicide.

Overcome with grief and against his better judgement, he got in the car with another member of the family to drive to Penticton.

Skogstad said Paul was remorseful, but can be reticent in showing it.

“He didn’t set out to drive that day. He had a reason to drive fast, but not an excuse,” Skogstad said.

His client had liability insurance in the amount of $2 million. Skogstad noted Paul would have to make some restitution to ICBC before possibly driving again.

He said the scene of accident was a on very sharp curve, "if not sharpest curve in the Okanagan."

Paul also spoke to court, calling the incident “a lawless act that did a great deal of harm to other people.”

“I learned my lesson and I’m not going to repeat anything like this ever again,” he told court.

In delivering her verdict, Justice Beames said she was satisfied Paul was sorry and remorseful for his actions but also noted he drove “in complete disregard for the safety of others using the highway.”

“I have heard the joint submission presented was carefully considered and negotiated. I accept it,” she said.

“This was a tragic event. Harm done to the victims is incalculable. Lives have been altered,” the judge said, adding had it not been for Paul’s youth, his status as a first time offender and his remorse, she might have reconsidered the joint submission.

Paul was sentenced to nine months in jail followed by a year’s probation. He is also subject to a three year driving prohibition and a restitution order for $150 to Laurie Hamm on a monthly basis following his release from jail for a period of 12 months. 

He is to participate in a restorative justice program if asked, and is required to undertake 50 hours of community service.

He is also required to view the Hamms’ video and write an essay about it.

"I understand this was a mistake. You're not like the people we see who lead criminal lifestyles and deliberately and intentionally break the law on a frequent basis. It sounds like you've learned from these circumstances and after your time in jail you will return to what appears to be a pretty exemplary life. Good luck to you," the judge said to Paul.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to tips@infonews.ca and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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