No jail for trucker who killed off-duty OPP officer
September 18, 2007
The Hamilton Spectator
A Grimsby trucker who struck and killed a cyclist has been spared a jail sentence although he had already amassed $14,000 worth of fines for driving infractions at the time of the collision.
Instead, he will serve a two-year probation term and lose his driver's licence for a year.
Michael Dougan, 31, had accumulated the fines over a 10-year period for five convictions of driving with a suspended licence and two convictions of driving with no insurance.
Several years ago, he had also served two jail sentences for criminal offences.
At the time of the fatal crash on June 9, 2006, which claimed the life of 44-year-old OPP Sergeant Gregory Stobbart, Dougan had recently got his driver's licence back by arranging to pay off the fines at the rate of $75 a month.
An avid cyclist and exercise buff, Stobbart was on a training ride on Tremaine Road outside of Milton when he was clipped by Dougan's side mirror. He later died at Hamilton General Hospital.
In handing down the sentence yesterday, justice of the peace Barry Quinn ordered Dougan to do 100 hours of community service and attend driver's education as part of his probation. He will probably also lose his job with Battlefield Construction -- where he was working at the time of the collision -- as a result of the suspension.
Crown prosecutor Maureen McGuigan had pushed for a one-month jail sentence as well as a two-year licence suspension for Dougan, who was earlier convicted of careless driving under the Highway Traffic Act.
She stressed cyclists are a "uniquely vulnerable class of road users" and must be protected against motorists like Dougan with a "short, sharp jail sentence."
Turning to Stobbart's widow Eleanor McMahon, Quinn suggested a jail sentence or another stiff fine would probably have little effect in curbing Dougan's driving habits.
He concluded from Dougan's record he was a "risk taker," willing to push his luck when he didn't have a licence or insurance.
He also noted that 62 days after killing Stobbart, Dougan was charged again in Wellington County under the Highway Traffic Act for following too close.
"He let it go (by not going to court to face the charge). He took a chance this will be swept under the counter. He let it slide," Quinn said.
Outside the courtroom, McMahon said she had the impression Quinn had "thrown up his hands" because he didn't know what sanctions he could impose to deter Dougan's conduct.
She said she came to court with no expectations about what the sentence would be.
"I'm not a vindictive person," she said. "I didn't come here thinking causing Mr. Dougan pain will bring my husband back. But I do expect an amount of accountability and I'm sure the public expects accountability."
In her victim impact statement, she described her husband as her "best friend" and "soulmate" who made her feel she could do anything.
As a result of his encouragement, she did several triathlons and ran two half-marathons.
"He was with me every step of the way," she wrote.
Since his death, she's become an impassioned bicycling safety advocate and will be joining hundreds of cyclists in the second annual Share the Road Greg Stobbart Memorial Ride in Milton on Sept. 30.
Starting at the Milton Go station at 10 a.m., the riders will follow a route that will take them past the spot where Stobbart was killed and where they will stop briefly to remember him.
It will be McMahon's first time on her bike since her husband's death.