Looking at Twitter this morning, I kept seeing the headline “In drunk-driving flood, judge criticizes society for promoting alcohol.” At first, I didn’t pay it much mind. Judges rail against things all the time and while it can sometimes be entertaining and they’re often not wrong, there are better ways to spend my reading energy today, I figured. But by the third or fourth time it came up, a thought struck me. This story is local. It sure would be funny if the judge in question was Colin Westman, wouldn’t it? Hopeful but certainly not expecting something that rich to just land in my lap, I clicked it. And guess who I found. Our old pal Justice Westman, lecturing folks about their bad decisions.
A steady stream of impaired drivers in court on Thursday prompted a judge to criticize society for promoting alcohol use.
“The costs are huge,” said Justice Colin Westman, citing a World Health Organization study that found alcohol kills more than 2.5 million people in the world each year.
In one sentencing on Thursday, Westman cited the recent case of Marco Muzzo, who was drunk when his car hit a minivan in Vaughan, killing three children and their grandfather. Muzzo, 29, was sentenced to 10 years in jail minus time served.
“The only difference between you and him is good luck,” Westman told Jacob Beck, 20, a Wilfrid Laurier University student who pleaded guilty to driving with more than the legal limit of alcohol in his blood.
In January, John Blais, 46, who works for a masonry company, was driving erratically on Roseville Road in North Dumfries Township. A motorist followed him and called police. Blais’ car went through two red lights in Kitchener and hit another car.
Breath tests showed he had more than three times the legal limit of alcohol.
Westman fined Blais $1,800 and handed him a one-year driving ban.
The judge asked him if he calculated the total cost of his impaired driving conviction.
“Many thousands, for sure,” Blais said.
Westman said extra insurance premiums could wind up costing him $35,000 over his lifetime.
Blais has a prior impaired conviction from years ago.
Westman said he once sentenced a man on his 18th impaired conviction. The judge said he asked the man if he thought he had a drinking problem. “Who me?” he replied.
The judge said Blais’ high alcohol readings suggest he has a problem. He said Blais may be healthy today, but won’t be if he continues to drink excessively.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to see that after all these years, he might be having a change of heart and seeing impaired driving for what it is. Everybody makes mistakes, and we all deserve a chance to make things right. But while you’re busy RTing and sharing and liking and holding this guy up as a model of justice, right and truth, remember that this is the very same judge who once let someone off for driving while suspended because he was getting coffee for church people at the time and cut off the victim impact statement of a drunk driving victim because it was too negative.
It’s hard for me to sympathize with Westman’s frustration or even to trust him long term knowing that his actions in his position of authority have more than once contributed to the problem. Perhaps, if we treated serious offenses seriously when we’re supposed to, we wouldn’t have to sentence somebody eighteen times for the same damn thing. Just a thought.