The daughter of a woman who was killed when she was struck by a careless driver in a Vancouver intersection is angry that the accused got what she considers to be a lenient sentence.
Ruth Lutgens is raising questions about the case involving her mother, 73-year-old Sarah Lutgens, who died after being hit by a vehicle being driven by Qiaojun Chen at West 10th Avenue and Sasamat Street on Sept. 28, 2020.
Chen pleaded guilty to the Motor Vehicle Act offense of driving without due care and attention and last month received a $1,800 fine, 18 months of probation and a one-year driving ban.
The victim, a mother of five, was on the south sidewalk of West 10th Avenue, headed eastbound towards Sasamat Street at the time of the accident.
Chen, a 42-year-old mother of two who lived a few blocks from the accident scene, was driving westbound on West 10th Avenue.
The provincial court heard that as Chen approached the intersection, which had a pedestrian-controlled traffic light, she observed that there was a yellow light.
Prior to entering the intersection and turning left, she also observed that the light had turned red and she continued into the intersection, not noticing Lutgens as she crossed the street.
Chen’s vehicle struck Lutgens, knocking her to the ground. When she hit Lutgens, she was shocked by the action, neglected to put on the brakes due to her shock, and drove over her.
Dash-cam video from the accused’s vehicle, which was examined by police, showed that her driving prior to the intersection was unremarkable.
There was no evidence of wanton and reckless disregard for the rules of the road prior to the intersection, and drugs and alcohol were not believed to be involved. Speed did not appear to be a significant factor.
The victim was rushed to hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Ruth Lutgens, a 37-year-old mother of three who lives in Paris, France, told Postmedia that she questions the decision of Crown to charge Chen with a motor vehicle offense rather than a criminal offence.
“But I also have deep-rooted concerns with how lenient the process is and how unfair it is, and also, quite frankly, it makes for a very unsafe environment in Vancouver.”
During the proceedings, Lutgens read out a victim-impact statement that described how her mother meant “everything” to her and her other family members and that the fatal collision changed her life forever.
“Qiaojun Chen took my mother from me, from my siblings, and from my children and husband,” said her statement. “I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I could not take care of myself or my children.”
Asked to comment on the decision to proceed with the motor vehicle offense as opposed to a criminal prosecution, the BC Prosecution Service had no immediate response Tuesday.
“The difficulty in criminal law and particularly where the offender has committed a Motor Vehicle Act offense and not a crime, is that no sentence can in any way remedy the pain that the family members feel or in any way bring closure or alleviate any of the remorse,” said provincial court Judge Ellen Gordon in her reasons for sentence.
“The criminal justice system is never designed to do that, and in a case of this nature where the offense is a driving offense and not a criminal driving offence, that’s more stark.”
The judge imposed conditions of probation including that Chen, who had no prior driving or criminal record, undertake a remedial driving course following the driving ban.
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