Vernon drunk driver get jail time, but escapes deportation - InfoNews

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Vernon drunk driver get jail time, but escapes deportation

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April 04, 2019 - 10:00 AM

VERNON - A Vernon man with a chronic history of impaired driving narrowly managed to escape deportation yesterday after a judge sentenced him to five months and 29 days in prison.

Crown counsel had requested a six-month prison sentence for 51-year-old, Gurinder Pal Singh Bajwa, who was charged for driving while having a blood alcohol level over twice the legal limit in May 2017. As Bajwa is not a Canadian citizen, a sentence of six months or more would have stripped him of his permanent residency status and deported him back to India.

The Justice Jeremy Guild called Bajwa a "very selfish man" who put the public at risk but stopped short of seeing Bajwa deported saying a six-month sentence would have a significant impact of his wife and four children.

Vernon court heard yesterday, Apr. 3, how Bajwa had moved to Canada in 1991 from India and had four children, two of whom were at university.

Bajwa has several previous charges for impaired driving dating back to 2006 and was previously sentenced to 120 days in jail in 2011. Bajwa also received two, 24 hour driving suspensions in 2013.

Defence lawyer Julian Van der Walle told the court Bajwa had stopped drinking in the last few months and "turned a corner when it came to alcohol." Van der Walle said a six-month sentence would ordinarily be reasonable, but asked Judge Guild to take Bajwa's immigration status into account and deliver a sentence of five months and 29 days.

Crown counsel Margaret Cissell argued against the five months and 29-day sentence, pointing to Bajwa's previous record and that he'd had "ample opportunity" to become a Canadian citizen. Cissell noted that while nobody was hurt in the incident in May 2017, his previous 120 jail sentence hadn't changed his behaviour.

"He's well aware of the consequences...but he still continues to drive and drink," she said.

Speaking through an interpreter Bajwa told the judge he'd "made a mistake."

However, Judge Guild didn't agree.

"In my view, you made more than a mistake, it was a choice," Guild said. "It was you who decided, having been convicted three times, having gone to jail... but jail didn't make it important enough for you to get alcohol [counselling]... it was not enough to make you change your mind."

Guild continued, "Driving when sober is were put everyone at risk."

Guild told the court he understood addiction, but that he hadn't heard that Bajwa had tried to change his behaviour.

However, Judge Guild said the "collateral damage" a six-month sentence and deportation would do to his family was significant.

"It would have an impact not just on them but on society as a whole," Guild said.

Judge Guild sentenced Bajwa to five months and 29 days prison time, followed by two-years probation and a four year driving ban. Bajwa's probation conditions include a ban on consuming alcohol or entering a bar or liquor store.

Bajwa's wife sat quietly with a straight face in the public gallery watching as the sheriff took Bajwa into custody.

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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