An ArmchairMayor.ca editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
IT’S TRUE THAT the loss of a loved one can never be made right by the courts. But families are at least comforted when they feel justice has been served.
Jason Gourlay, the man who accidently struck and killed 16-year-old Jennifer Gatey with his vehicle a year and a half ago, was sentenced Monday to 10 months in jail, minus time served.
The tragedy of Gatey’s death is well-known in Kamloops. She was on a sidewalk at a streetlight on Pacific Way waiting for a bus when Gourlay’s vehicle swerved and killed her. He later said he’d been distracted by a dog.
He didn’t stop to see what had happened.
According to Gourlay, he didn’t know about Jennifer Gatey’s death until the following day. Instead of coming forward, he cleaned up his vehicle and switched out a signal light.
It took four months for charges to be laid after a thorough investigation by police, four months of anxiety for Jennifer Gatey’s family and friends. Eventually, Gourlay pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and obstruction of justice. He apologized to the family, admitting he was wrong not to stop that night. He said he hoped the family could find closure.
When you lose a child, there’s no such thing as closure. A son or daughter’s death — and the tremendous hole it leaves — is something that stays with you for the rest of your life. It’s the worst kind of grief.
In this case, one can’t imagine the added pain caused by the fact Jennifer Gatey died in such circumstances, and by the needless delay in getting to a legal resolution due to the driver’s reluctance to do the right thing.
Gourlay’s sentence is more than his defence lawyer proposed, less than the Crown prosecutor asked for. Sure, he’ll have to live with what he did for the rest of his life, but it doesn’t even approach the pain of losing a daughter.
Monday’s sentencing leaves a distinctly unsatisfied feeling about whether justice has been done for Jennifer Gatey and her family.
Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on ArmchairMayor.ca and CFJC Today. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.