Father forgives driver who killed daughter while drunk driving
Alicia Van Bree's sentencing hearing sparked emotional testimony in London.
Nihal Toor died in a road accident by alcohol on July 17, 2020 near Strathroy in southwestern Ontario.
The Crown has sought 8 years in prison against Alicia Van Bree, who pleaded guilty in August to drunk driving charges after a 2020 accident that killed one person near London. The eight-year-old victim, Nihal Toor, who lived in Virginia, had come to visit his grandparents in Ontario with his family.
It was grieving and devastated parents who gave evidence at the London Courthouse on Friday, giving their statements about the impact the July 17, 2020 crash had on their lives.
Nihal was our baby, she was born a little chubby, bright-eyed, with lots of hair, she was always in a good mood, said her father, Sukhwinder Toor, who had stayed that summer at the United States.
8-year-old Nihal Toor was the fourth and last daughter of Sukhwinder and Baljinder Samra Toor.
He explains that his daughter's first name signified that she was blessed in the Sikh religion. She had an aura and she already cared about others at her age, he says. She was the oxygen of the family, he adds inconsolably.
Mr. Toor points out that he loved Nihal and that she loved him back. A child's love is the only valid currency in this material world, he adds.
“However, I am ashamed to admit that I would have preferred a boy when she was born, because she was our 4th daughter, but no son can now replace her.
— Sukhwinder Toor, victim's father
I think of her every day and the more time passes, the more my grief becomes insurmountable, he says, swearing to honor the memory of his daughter for as long as he lives.
He then turned to the accused seated in the courtroom. In an act of self-sacrifice, he said he forgave her for her wrongdoing.
Nihal would have forgiven you too, our religion teaches us, because you're going to have to carry that weight on your shoulders for the rest of your life, he explains.
M. Toor only asked him one thing. When you call your children on the phone, please think of my daughter, she will be able to help you and heal your wounds, I wish you good luck, he concludes.
Nihal Toor's mother, Baljinder Samra Toor , lives in the United States, where she works in Virginia.
His wife, Baljinder Samra Toor, tells how life has become difficult for her since the death of her daughter. I have to force myself to get up in the morning for the sake of our three other daughters, she said.
Ms. Toor says Nihal was her favourite, everyone adored her, and she was her reason for being. If I could just hold her one more time or watch a Disney movie with her, she continues.
“My daughter now lives in an urn, she died in the cremation ceremony and my grief will now be eternal.
— Baljinder Samra Toor, mother of the victim
No mother should outlive her child, she concludes, feeling condemned by life.
The three sisters of the little victim also spoke in turn before their parents to describe the pain they have been experiencing for more than two years.
Simran Toor first recalled that her sister's death rekindled precious moments she had imagined living with her, such as her high school prom, her graduation at university or even his marriage.
No punishment would be enough to bring her back to life, she said.< p class="styled__StyledLegend-sc-v64krj-0 cfqhYM">Members of the Toor family traveled to Canada to testify in person in court at the London courthouse.
Her sister Jasmin Toor clarified that she was consumed with anger, that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and that she no longer trusted anyone .
I helped our mother diaper her, feed her and put her to bed at night, she says. We did not lose her, she was taken from us and I hope her death will haunt you forever, she concluded, addressing the accused .
The last sister, Maya Toor, recalled that Nihal died without warning and the family couldn't even say goodbye to her.
I am now the youngest in the family, said the 16-year-old. The horizontal line on the EKG screen in the hospital is the last memory I have of her, she points out.
Since there was no trial, the Crown presented video of the accident from a roadside surveillance camera to the court.
Alicia Van Bree collided with the victim's grandmother's vehicle at the intersection of Egremont Road and Hickory Drive, near Strathroy, NY. southwestern Ontario.
She had a blood alcohol level of 140 to 170 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood.
Ms. Van Bree pleaded guilty on August 22, 2022 to two charges; impaired driving causing death, and impaired driving causing bodily harm.
Nihal's grandmother was seriously injured in the collision.
In Canada, the legal limit for driving is less than 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood.
Crown prosecutor George Christakos has asked for a sentence of 8 years against the 45-year-old woman, who had been released on bail upon her arrest.
Me Christakos recalls that the case law of recent years is more severe with regard to drunk drivers, because the federal Parliament wanted to send a clear message to the population to dissuade the consumption of alcohol. drunk driving.
“She knew she had been drinking, but she hadn’t no contingency plan to avoid driving that night when she had taxi or Uber services within range of her cell phone.
—George Christakos, Crown Attorney
An 8-year sentence would fully respect the spirit of the law, he said. Ms. Van Bree is solely responsible for the accident, he continues.
Although he acknowledges that speed was not involved in the accident, he recalls that Mrs. Van Bree made a reckless left turn without giving way. passage to the victims' car.
The Crown explained that Alicia Van Bree had no excuse on the evening of the tragedy, because she knew that she had drunk wine in the evening.
The prosecutor adds that the collision left one seriously injured and that the victim's 72-year-old grandmother now lives in a wheelchair after suffering several broken limbs.
Mr. Christakos assures that he is not influenced by opinion polls about the treatment to be reserved for speeders.
It specifies that the penalty must be exemplary and dissuasive and that it is necessary to denounce this behavior in society.
The' Defense attorney Ronald Ellis instead asked for a maximum sentence of three years, because this case has nothing to do with other similar legal drunk driving cases.
Mr. Ellis claims that his client has pleaded guilty to two counts, that she feels serious remorse, that she has not had a single drop of alcohol since the tragedy.
“She has publicly admitted the shame she feels since the accident and she is raising awareness the dangers of drunk driving.
—Ronald Ellis, defense attorney
The lawyer adds that his client suffers from anxiety and depression, that she lost her father shortly before the accident and that her marriage fell apart.
He specifies that his client has no criminal history and that she has the unwavering support of her family in this ordeal. She poses no danger to herself or to society, he concludes.
Defense for Alicia Van Bree says her client is in therapy at a drug rehabilitation center.
Defense adds that the pandemic has caused lengthy delays in court proceedings in Ontario, which is why the case could not be dismissed sooner.
The Crown nevertheless played down the defendant's admission of guilt by recalling that she confessed a few days before the start of her trial and not in the weeks following the accident.
Alicia Van Bree accepted without hesitation to speak in court at the request of the magistrate. She had prepared a statement for the occasion.
Standing in front of a lectern, she said she was overwhelmed with emotion because of the scale of her crime. I'm speechless to describe how I still feel, she sobbing.
“I think about what I did that night and saying it out loud doesn't make my life any easier. »
— Accused Alicia Van Bree
She says she thought she was invincible on the evening of July 17, 2020 after drinking with a friend where she had found solace since her father's death.
This accident has turned my life upside down, I would gladly exchange my life with Nihal if I could, she says.
She affirms that she now intends to dedicate her life to raising awareness of the dangers of drunk driving, to help others and save lives, when she has served the sentence that the court intends to impose on her.
Judge Maria Carrocia, of the Superior Court of Ontario, will hand down her sentence in a month at the request of the defense who had asked her to close the file before the holiday season.
The Crown has advised that it is not guaranteed that the Toor family will be able to return to Canada for the ;opportunity. The magistrate assured them that she would render her sentence in virtual mode.