A man who was previously convicted of first-degree murder in a 2011 highway crash that killed an Ontario police officer has been sentenced to two years of probation in a new trial after pleading guilty to manslaughter.
According to York Regional Police, the accused made his plea in a Newmarket courtroom Monday afternoon and was sentenced to two years of probation with several conditions related to operating a motor vehicle.
“After a number of judicial pretrial meetings, both the Crown and (the accused) agreed on the terms of today’s guilty plea to manslaughter and resulting sentencing conditions,” York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe said in a statement.
“While this result is not what many of us were hoping for, after eight grueling years navigating the criminal justice system and consulting closely with the Crown, this outcome seemed to best serve all involved.”
The accused, who was 15 years old at the time of the incident and cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was driving his parents’ van without a license on June 28, 2011 when he was pulled over by York Regional Police Const. Garrett Styles.
During the first trial, the court heard that Styles asked the driver to step out of the vehicle and reached inside to unbuckle the seatbelt. The van suddenly accelerated and started to drive away, dragging Styles about 300 meters.
The vehicle veered off the road and struck two wooden fence posts and a metal cable box before rolling over, the court heard. Styles landed underneath the vehicle and died of his injuries.
The teenage driver was critically injured and was left a quadriplegic.
In 2015, the accused was sentenced to a conditional supervision order for nine years.
Four years later, Ontario’s top court ordered a new trial for the accused after his conviction was appealed. In the ruling, the appeal court said the trial judge had failed to tell jurors that they should take the accused’s age and level of maturity, at the time of the incident, into consideration.
“The Court of Appeal indicated this case had significant challenges, including the fact the accused was a youth at the time and that he suffered permanent, life-altering injuries,” Jolliffe said. “The Crown consulted extensively with members of the Styles family, who felt very strongly they could not endure another trial.”
The president of the York Regional Police Association said that while they hope future first-degree murder convictions of on-duty officers remain as convictions, “the families of the victims should be our first priority.”
“The Crown advised the family that this was the best possible resolution given the unique circumstances of this case and it would spare them the trauma of another trial,” Rob O’Quinn, the association’s president, said in a statement.
“Putting them through a prolonged court case with an endless series of appeals in what should have been an open and shut case does a disserve to the community.”
With files from the Canadian Press