Précis: The fourth officer of the passenger ferry “Queen of the North”, which struck Gill Island and sank on 22 March 2006, was sentenced to four years imprisonment for criminal negligence causing death.
The accused was the fourth officer of the passenger ferry, “Queen of the North”, and the officer on watch and in command of the bridge when the “Queen of the North” struck Gill Island and sank on 22 March 2006. At the time there were 101 passengers and crew on board the ferry. Two individuals lost their lives. The accused was charged and convicted by a jury of two counts of criminal negligence causing death. Following the conviction, this sentencing hearing was held to determine the appropriate sentence. The Crown sought a sentence of six years imprisonment. The defence argued for a conditional sentence of two years less a day to be served in the community.
Held: The accused was sentenced to four years.
Decision: It is clear the jury rejected the evidence of the accused that he was carrying out his duties to the best of his abilities and found he grossly neglected his duty. He failed to make a required course change and allowed the vessel to travel on autopilot at full cruising speed straight into Gill Island. The vessel was off course for 12 to 14 minutes. Had the navigational aids been used or used properly, they would have shown the vessel was off course. He demonstrated extreme and catastrophic dereliction of duty. He was clearly distracted by personal issues related to his relationship with the Quartermaster, who was the only other person on the bridge with him and with whom he had had an affair. The objectives of sentencing are: denouncing unlawful conduct; general and specific deterrence; separating offenders from society where necessary; rehabilitation; providing reparations for the harm done to victims and the community; and promoting a sense of responsibility in offenders. The sentence imposed must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility or moral blameworthiness of the offender. “This is one of those cases where rehabilitation and other restorative factors will not take precedence over the factors of denunciation and deterrence in the face of an avoidable, senseless crime.” “This was a case of complete abdication of responsibility.” Although the accused has no criminal record and has expressed remorse, “he has demonstrated a lack of insight in terms of his responsibility”. Due to the high degree of moral blameworthiness on the part of the accused, the focus is on deterrence and denunciation.
Note: An appeal from the conviction was dismissed at 2014 BCCA 493 and is summarized separately on this site.