Shock and disbelief.
Those are words Andrea MacDonald used to describe her family’s reaction to the sentence Martin Gentles received in the case involving the death of her 20-year-old daughter Rayel three years ago.
“What this judge has done is basically to say while you are impaired you really can’t be held responsible for anything you do,” she said minutes after Gentles was sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Williams Lake Wednesday. “I think it has put drinking driving laws back 50 years.”
Gentles, 30, was found guilty of driving while over the legal blood alcohol limit and fleeing the scene of an accident and not rendering assistance after the vehicle he was driving struck and killed Rayel and seriously injured Alysha Mullett as the two friends walked across Carson Drive on April 22, 2012 after attending the Rodeo Dance.
Crown counsellor Julie Dufour asked for a three- to three-and-a-half-year sentence, a one-year prohibition from driving and a secondary DNA test order.
Defence lawyer Ken Walker asked for a conditional sentence to be served in the community, and higher than normal fines, noting Gentles is the sole supporter of his family.
Gentles received an eight-month conditional sentence, one-year probation, a one-year driving prohibition and a $1,500 fine.
“Our beautiful daughter’s life has not been valued by this judge,” she said. “We feel re-victimized … I don’t feel very proud to be Canadian right now.”
Before the sentencing MacDonald and her daughter, Rilla-Lee, gave emotional victim impact statements describing the pain of their loss.
“My husband Dave and I are living a nightmare,” MacDonald told the court. “Our family died along with Rayel. Our hearts are still beating but we are shells of our former selves.”
Sobbing, Rilla-Lee said she will never get over her sister’s death.
“The loss of a person so fully a part of yourself and who you are is completely unfathomable and I feel like I’ve lost a limb.”
In a statement read by Walker, Gentles said he felt so much regret and wished he would have been able to change the outcome.
“Above all else I know what I did was wrong. It is not the person I want to become, nor is it the kind of example I want to set for my son.”
Gentles recounted a troubled upbringing, coming from a bad childhood environment.
“It has been a constant struggle,” he said. “My mother passed away when I was almost 20 years old, leaving me essentially homeless, working several jobs and dealing with major amounts of grief.”
Later when Justice John D. Truscott asked Gentles if he wanted to say something to the family directly, he stood facing the judge and said quietly if he could take back that night he would.
“I deeply impacted the family and my family. Nothing I can do will ever change that.”
In her victim impact statement made before Gentles’ statement was read, Andrea said her struggle every day has been made worse by the realization there has been no apology and no sadness expressed by Gentles.
“I’ve been saddened by the lack of character the accused has shown toward us and toward Rayel. Someone who is of honour would have never put our family through this,” she said.
Rayel’s death was completely senseless, she added.
“Why didn’t anyone stop them from driving that night? Their friends, anyone at the bar that night, had the power to change the outcome. If they had stopped the accused and his passenger, our beautiful daughter Rayel would still be here on this earth doing what she did the best, loving and giving to others.”