Woman with 19 prior drunk driving prohibitions receives no jail time at latest sentencing

WATCH: One of the worst repeat drunk drivers in B.C. was sentenced today for yet another impaired driving charge. Kylie Stanton reports on her punishment this time.

A Victoria woman was in court today to be sentenced after pleading guilty to one count of impaired driving and one count of driving while prohibited following an incident last April.

Prior to the incident, Suzanne Gurnell had 19 prohibitions for impaired driving in the last seven years, including three drunk driving convictions.

Although the Crown argued her record was an aggravating factor, Gurnell will not face jail time.

Instead, she will have to obey strict conditions.

“She’s got to maintain a curfew,” said defence lawyer Bradley Hickford following the sentencing. “She has got to continue on with the counselling and the rehabilitative efforts that she’s clearly been making for last number of months. And she’s also not to be found behind a driver’s seat or in the possession of any car keys.”

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Last April, the 49-year-old Gurnell was arrested around 4 a.m. after her car swerved into a police officers’ lane before accelerating away.

“She was so drunk that our officers didn’t need to use a roadside screening device,” said Graeme LeBlanc of Victoria Police’s Road Safety Unit at the time.

Today we learned Gurnell was in an abusive relationship at the time and was taking herself to hospital for treatment. Gurnell told the judge she had extreme remorse for what she had done.

There is concern penalties in cases like this don’t go far enough. While drinking and driving fatalities have dropped substantially since new rules took effect in 2010, those who are caught rarely face criminal code driving bans, let alone a jail sentence.

“It’s not just her that she’s placing in danger, it’s innocent people whose lives she’s threatening,” says NDP Justice Critic Mike Farnworth.

WATCH: Serial drunk driver back in court facing charges

-with files from Justin McElroy and Kylie Stanton

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