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Man sentenced to house arrest for 'catastrophic' Surrey street-racing crash

The scene of the 2020 crash. The scene of the 2020 crash.

A man has been sentenced to two years less a day of house arrest, two years less a day of probation and a three-year driving ban after causing a “catastrophic” crash while street racing in Surrey in 2020.

Sukhpal Singh Mann, 24, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing bodily harm last May, and was sentenced in Surrey Provincial Court earlier this month.

Mann was 21 at the time of the crash and had no criminal record and a “promising future,” according to the court decision. “Sadly, his judgment on the 9th of August, 2020, was exceedingly poor, and now all of them, offender and victims alike, must confront an altered future,” wrote Judge Mark Jetté.

 

THE CRASH

The incident happened shortly after 9 p.m. at the intersection of Scott Road and Mall Access. Mann was driving three passengers in a 2019 Ford Mustang, which he didn’t own and was driving for the first time, according to the decision.

As seen on traffic camera video from various intersections shown in court, Mann was driving in a normal manner, traveling south along Scott Road in each clip until he was seen at its intersection with 75A Avenue, the court heard. A white car was seen speeding through the intersection on a yellow light, with the Mustang following close behind in the other lane. The two cars were travelling around 130km/h, more than double the speed limit of 60km/h.

Mann ultimately admitted in court he was in a race with the white car, Jetté said.

Meanwhile, Amritpal Singh was driving his Honda Accord, heading north on Scott Road, with his wife Melannie Makier-Williams and their two children—age five and three—as passengers.

When the light turned yellow, Singh entered the left turn lane and began to turn onto Mall Access. Mann sped into the intersection on a stale yellow and collided with the passenger side of Singh’s car, according to the judgment.

After being hit, the Accord careened into the southwest corner of the intersection, striking a pedestrian who had been waiting to cross the street. The Mustang smashed into a power pole.

The court heard that, according to the Mustang’s on-board computer, the accelerator was fully engaged five seconds prior to impact. At one second before hitting the Accord, Mann was travelling at 158 km/hr. At half a second before impact, the brakes were engaged and the Mustang was travelling 135 km/hr.

The speed at impact was 124 km/hr. At the scene, Mann told police he was only travelling 70 km/hr, the decision says. Around eight months later, he voluntarily provided a statement to police admitting that he had been racing and driving over 100km/hr.

The white car Mann was racing was not visible on the CCTV footage of the crash, and it is believed the driver had pulled out of the race by then, according to court documents.

THE INJURIES

The damage to the Mustang and Accord was “catastrophic,” the court heard. First responders had to cut away the roof of the Accord, and the jaws of life were used to extract Singh.

The two children were not injured, “but their parents were not so lucky,” the decision reads. Mann and his passengers were also uninjured.

Singh’s lower jaw, nasal bone and orbital bone were fractured. He required jaw and dental surgery.

Makier-Williams, Singh’s wife, was more seriously injured, according to the decision. Her pelvis, orbital bone and nasal bone were fractured. She also fractured her occipital condyle—located between the base of the skull and the cervical spine—her fourth lumbar vertebrae and her seventh rib.

Glass was embedded in her face, she had blood in her lungs and her liver was bruised. Makier-Williams also had surgery for her facial injuries and to remove the glass.

The court heard that Makier-Williams was bed-ridden for seven weeks after the crash, and needed to use a wheelchair “for some time” after that. She was diagnosed with severe depression six months into her recovery, and was unable to work for an extended period of time.

Singh was also unable to work “for some two years” after the incident, and still experiences pain and attends physiotherapy.

As parents to three young children, Singh and Makier-Williams’ injuries “have had significant impacts on their ability to care for their children," Jetté wrote.

The pedestrian, Mohammed Ali, now 72, fractured his femur and knee. He spent one month in hospital, a further six weeks in a rehabilitation facility and then several months in assisted living.

Prior to the accident, Ali was an independent, physically able senior, the court heard. After his release from the rehabilitation facility, he could no longer live alone. He moved in with his son and daughter-in-law who took care of him “at great sacrifice to themselves and their young family,” the judge said. He had to use a wheelchair for around four months and still uses a walker.

“Ali grieves this loss of independence and deeply misses the life he was able to lead before all this happened,” Jetté wrote.

Mann was not physically injured in the crash, but he did suffer psychologically, the court heard.

He reported feeling depressed afterward, and worried about the people he had hurt. His spouse reported that he expressed suicidal thoughts. “Not long after” the accident, Mann spent 15 days in a psychiatric ward, the decision notes.

THE SENTENCE

Crown prosecutors sought a sentence of 18 months in jail for Mann, and his defence argued for a conditional sentence order.

Aggravating factors included the extent of the victim’s injuries, the fact that Mann was driving over double the speed limit and that he was racing in a busy urban setting.

According to Jetté, letters from Mann’s family, friends and a Sikh religious leader described him as a “kind, loving, generous and capable person who--after his arrival in Canada--temporarily departed from the path set for him by his parents.”

Mann moved to Canada from India in 2016 at age 16 without his parents, but they relocated to Canada to be with their son after the crash.

“All of (the writers) describe a deeply remorseful person who is haunted by the impact his conduct has had on others,” Jetté wrote.

“I accept that he is sorry for what he has done and the harm he has caused. I find that his expressions of remorse are heartfelt and genuine,” Jetté said of Mann.

Mann’s remorse was one of the factors the judge took into account during sentencing.

Another factor was that the street race lasted for “at most” two blocks, according to the decision. “There is no evidence that this brief race was anything other than spontaneous. I find that his decision to participate in this dangerous enterprise was a spur of the moment error in judgment,” the judge wrote.

Jetté also noted that Mann will face significant civil consequences for the damage he caused, with Singh and Makier-Williams having begun litigation. “It is a certainty that Mr. Ali will also recover something for his losses. It is readily conceivable that the cumulative amount of these claims will be considerable,” the decision reads.

Lastly, Jetté considered the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which states anyone sentenced to more than 6 months imprisonment will be deported without right of appeal. As Mann only holds permanent residency in Canada, that would apply. A CSO would not trigger a deportation, however.

As such, Mann was sentenced to two years less a day of house arrest, followed by two years less a day of probation and a three-year driving ban.

For the first 14 months, his house arrest will be 24/7, with exceptions for employment or medical care. The following 6 months he will need to be inside from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Mann must also complete 100 hours of community service.

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