Ian Abdulla can barely talk about the night of Dec. 25, 2019, when he was seriously injured in a car crash that resulted in the death of his mother 68-year-old Clarice Abdulla.
Ian said he still suffers from vision issues and headaches, but most of the anxiety he and his family suffers comes from the fact the accused in this case and other cases seem to have more rights that the victims themselves.
“We see the news, we see everything happening, it’s always a big reminder, it’s just very rampant,” he said, referring to the fact that impaired driving cases keep happening.
The most recent example is the case involving Louise Whiten in Oakville, a 51-year-old speech pathologist who was killed on Dec. 3 when Halton Regional Police said a suspected impaired driver mounted the curb and struck her and her dog Zack as they were out for a walk.
In the Whiten case, the man suspected of impaired operation causing death and dangerous driving causing death, 58-year-old David Hyde, was arrested at the scene and later released from the police station on an undertaking with a promise to appear in court virtually in January.
Ian called what happened to his family insulting and unfair. The accused, 36-year-old Aurora resident Gianmarco di Luciano, was charged with impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death and failing to comply with a breath demand causing death.
He was released from custody after his arrest because Clarice was still alive at the time, suffering from critical injuries. She died from her injuries weeks later.
In June, the Abdulla family learned from the Crown attorney that di Luciano had successfully had his bail conditions varied allowing him to drive.
“While he’s at home taking care of his mother, I’m taking flowers to my mother at the cemetary,” said Ian, explaining the family was not told about the changes made to the suspect’s bail conditions until after the hearing because “they didn’t want to upset us.
“They gave him back his licence to drive to work to pay for his legal bills and to drive his mother to (medical) appointments but at that time in COVID, everything was locked down. Aurora’s not too far from the GTA. There’s lots of Lyfts, Ubers, public transport and they allowed him to do that, to get back his license, to be on the road.”
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The Abdullas said they feel for Whiten’s family, who told Global News they feel it’s unfair that the accused in the case was allowed to go home to a warm bed the night of the crash.
In a statement to Global News, Halton Regional Police Const. Ryan Anderson confirmed that the decision to release the accused by way of an undertaking was not COVID-19-related.
“There is a presumption under the Criminal code and common law that every person is entitled to be released from custody as soon as possible,” wrote Anderson while citing legislative amendments of Bill C-75 that came into effect in December 2019.
“I cannot get into private details of this occurrence other than to confirm that bail consideration factors were satisfied without the need for the authority of the court so the presumption of offering release applied.”
Former Crown Attorney Calvin Barry who now represents impaired driving suspects as a criminal defence lawyer said he believes there is more leniency in terms of bail since COVID-19.
Barry said the strength of the Crown’s case is taken into consideration always taken into account when considering bail and everyone has the right to reasonable bail, but during COVID-19 there is a new concern.
“At the South Detention Centre right now, there are 18 cases in the last 24 hours so I think that’s a bit of a concern,” he said.
“Imagine someone on an allegation in Canada presumed innocent, your Charter of Rights to reasonable bail and they end up dying in jail awaiting to get bail, so that’s probably some balancing that wasn’t available before COVID.”
Barry said it’s rare for someone to be released without going in front of a judge or a justice of the peace and having a show-cause hearing. He also said it’s rare for an accused in a deadly impaired driving case to get their licence back.
Meanwhile, di Luciano will be back in Newmarket court on Dec. 22 and Hyde is expected to make his first virtual court appearance on Jan. 12 in Milton.