Man found guilty of death by dangerous driving
A 54-year-old has been sentenced to a suspended prison sentence for his actions in falling asleep at the wheel, and causing fatal injuries to a man sleeping on a sidewalk near a bar in 2015.
Last Friday at the High Court, Johann Buntyn was sentenced to a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, as well as fined $10,000 and disqualified from holding or obtaining a license for eight years.
He has already had his license suspended for four years, so he will be disqualified for another four years.
Justice Brian Cottle came to this decision after deliberating on the facts and circumstances surrounding the charge against Buntyn for causing the death of Elroy Cruickshank, 52 years, by dangerous driving on October 27, 2015.
Buntyn had pleaded guilty earlier last week upon advice from legal counsel Ronald Marks.
The accepted facts of the fateful day, as read by Justice Brian Cottle, is that Buntyn was driving through Arnos Vale on his way back to his home in Belair. He was in the company of his fiancée, who had asked him to help her deliver an asthma pump to her relative who was in dire need of it. At the time he was asked to do this Buntyn had been working in the garden all day and was tired.
As Buntyn approached the Mango Tree Bar his fiancée realized that he had fallen asleep.
“The vehicle was headed off the roadway. She tried to awaken him, he did not respond at first, she had to shout his name and strike him,” the Judge revised.
Upon impact, Buntyn awoke and tried to steer the vehicle back onto the road.
The vehicle struck Cruickshank who was sleeping on the elevated sidewalk, and it dragged him into the road. The wounded man was taken to the hospital but died a few days later on the night of November 1. The cause of his death was multiple trauma about the body.
Cruickshank admitted to the police when he was interviewed that he had fallen asleep on the wheel. “So that from the very outset he has indicated his culpability in this matter,” the Justice noted.
Marks informed the court that Buntyn went to visit Cruickshank at the hospital. “He(Buntyn) said when he saw his(Cruickshank’s) condition he broke down, he apologized to Mr Cruickshank, but Mr Cruickshank could not respond….Nonetheless, he made the apology,” the lawyer stated.
The defence attorney stated, “It is important to note that not only does Mr Buntin have no previous conviction of any sort, that this was indeed the very first time that he had ever gotten himself into an accident from since he has been driving.”
The mental effects from the accident are so much that Buntyn apparently had to get counselling from church, family and community members.
Marks submitted that a custodial sentence was not warranted in the facts and circumstances of the case. “Mi Lord this was not a selfish act on the part of Mr Buntin, it was not an arrogant one. It was not an inconsiderate one your honour,” but just a moment when tiredness took over, the defense posited.
The lawyer informed that the authorities say that driving while tired is tantamount to driving while under the influence. “It may seem cruel your honour, that someone who has lived an exemplary life like Mr Buntin could be here sitting facing the possibility of prisons for just simply falling asleep,” he continued.
Although the start of the offence is a prison sentence, the aggravating and mitigating features were also applied.
To the judge, the aggravating features are that Buntyn was aware he was tired but he still proceeded to drive. “That decision resulted in the death of a man,” he stated.
However, he ended there and went on to state that he defendant had pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity, and had admitted as much to the police in the beginning. He has no record before the incident, whether traffic or criminal and has expressed remorse, even going to the hospital, the judge listed as mitigating. Further, it was noted that Buntyn has also had to seek counselling.
“The prisoner’s conduct was very reprehensible in that he has taken a life and that must be marked,” Cottle said. However, he noted that the court considered all the circumstances “And concludes that a custodial sentence for a first offender would not be appropriate.”