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JAFFER e@ca.ab.edmonton-strathcona 2000-11-27 federal election
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JANSSENS e@ca.on.kent_county.wallaceburg.wallaceburg_courier_press 2003-07-16 published
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Man's sentence offends family
Cheryl HEATH Courier Press staff
Things didn't always come easily for William Bob HETHERINGTON, know to Friends and family as "Bobby," but he is nonetheless described as a "happy go-lucky" sort of person.
On January 25, 2002, Bobby was walking across the Murray Street bridge when he somehow lost his footing and ended up laying on the road. The Chatham-Kent Police Service knows that much is true as a witness flagged down a cruiser to report the sighting. The motorist then headed back to where the man was laying. It was at that moment when the witness saw another motorist drive over Bobby.
According to the coroner's report, the 39-year-old was killed instantly. The now 48-year-old motorist took off, but was later tracked down and charged with a number of offences, including impaired driving causing death.
HETHERINGTON's family in Wallaceburg, including older sister Diana and elder brother Ron, arranged for his funeral with the assistance of Kevin CAVANAGH of the Haycock-Cavanagh Funeral Home. Bobby, who had never married and did not have children, had been searching for work ever since Libby, known as The Glass, closed in 1999.
Up until recently, the HETHERINGTON family did not know of the fate of the man who ran over Bobby. They had not received any information from the courts about the accused's court appearance. Then, a few weeks ago, Diana HETHERINGTON was working at her job as a security guard when a friend came by with a copy of a Chatham newspaper, which detailed the sentence handed to the man charged in her brother's death. The motorist, Harvey SEARLE, was given 20 months of house arrest on the charge of impaired driving cause of death. SEARLE was also given two years of probation and a four-year driving prohibition.
Diana couldn't believe her eyes. She had imagined the perpetrator would be facing a couple of years in jail. It hadn't crossed her mind that the accused would be allowed to continue going to work while serving a sentence at his own residence.
"We figured he wouldn't have gotten a slap on the hand and sent home," she says. What she finds particularly ironic is society largely condemns impaired driving, but once convicted, drivers tend to face lenient sentences meted out by the courts.
"Police work hard to get those drunk drivers off the streets and the judge just sends them home," she says. "There is no justice here."
Diana says her family is also saddened to note light sentences for impaired-driving related deaths are relatively commonplace.
"It happens all of the time," she says. "The HETHERINGTON family is not alone."
The sentence meted out to the man who took Bobby's life brings no comfort to the HETHERINGTONs. Indeed, Diana notes the driver's apology, which was read in the courtroom, has not been seen or heard by the HETHERINGTON family.
Family friend Dan JANSSENS echoes Diana's sentiments and says the lenient sentence handed to SEARLE highlights the need for reform to the justice system.
"I definitely think they should enforce the law a bit more -- not that it's going to help Bobby."
Diana, who was closest to Bobby, notes the family has also grieved the loss of their mother, who died of breast cancer when Bobby was a teenager, a brother who died from heart-related complications and the family patriarch a few years ago.
The type of sentence given to the man responsible for Bobby's life suggests the court system ascribes little value to human life, says Diana.
"Bobby was just a happy go-lucky guy. He was always laughing and happy," she says.
Family members are still attempting to set aside enough money to purchase a grave-site marker for Bobby, whose remains are resting beside his brother.
Brendan CRAWLEY, a spokesman for the Ministry of Attorney General's office, reports Chatham-Kent's Victim/Witness Assistance Program was set up after the initial charges against SEARLE were laid.
Nonetheless, a protocol was in place. According to Ministry documents, the Crown was following orders to remain in contact with the victim's girlfriend. It seems it was assumed all pertinent court information would be passed along to Bobby's family members, says CRAWLEY.
"I suppose that it wasn't the case," he says, noting it is unfortunate.
CRAWLEY adds the Crown was seeking a jail term of between 18 to 24 months for SEARLE, but the judge chose to mete out the sentence as presented.

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