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Jailed for 'despicable' driving

Judge doesn't believe man has really changed his attitudes
by Lisa Brown

 COUNTY - The Crown called it a "despicable display of driving," the driver called it a "ridiculous lapse in judgment," but the judge concluded it was worthy of jail time.

 Twenty-three-year-old Shea Patrick Samuel Ernst of Chester was sentenced to three months in custody March 19 on charges of dangerous driving and driving while prohibited.

 Crown attorney Lloyd Tancock told the court an RCMP constable was on patrol on Highway 103 near Simms Settlement July 17 when he clocked a car coming toward him at 126 km/hr. The Mountie turned and tried to stop the vehicle, but it sped away until it got caught behind a tractor-trailer.

 The driver appeared to be pulling off at Exit 6, but instead pulled back onto the highway and passed the transport truck on the paved shoulder, doing 140 km/hr, then cut the truck off and continued speeding away. After getting caught up in traffic again, the driver pulled the Honda Accord off the road, nearly three kilometres from where the officer had initially tried to stop the car.

 Mr. Ernst was behind the wheel. He had three female passengers with him, who had been drinking.

 Although he initially told the constable he didn't have his licence with him, a check revealed that Mr. Ernst was prohibited from driving in January 2007 after failing the breathalyser.

 Noting Mr. Ernst's pattern of driving and that he was six months into his year-long prohibition, Mr. Tancock asked Judge Anne Crawford to jail Mr. Ernst, suggesting a six-month term.

 But defence lawyer Bob Craig argued against that, saying his client is planning to attend Dalhousie University in September and must first complete a four-month work placement which he has secured to start in mid-April.

 Mr. Craig said he's known Mr. Ernst since he was a child and, although the young man had some problems with drugs and alcohol in the past, he believes Mr. Ernst has changed his attitudes since committing the offences.

 "He's matured considerably. He appears to be at a critical crossroads in his life," Mr. Craig said. "If you look at him today, this doesn't appear to be a heavy-drinking, drug-using, rebellious young man which you would have seen here just a year or so ago."

 But after hearing that Mr. Ernst was on a conditional sentence order in January 2007 when he was caught driving drunk, Judge Crawford wasn't convinced.

 "I hear everything that's been said in regards to you having now finally learned your lesson, but actions speak louder than words," she said. "What appears to me here is that you haven't learned your lesson - perhaps in one sense, in the sense that you know how to clean your act up in order to look good before the court, but I'm not convinced how real that change is."

 In addition to the three months in jail, she prohibited Mr. Ernst from driving for three years.

 Mr. Craig asked the judge to consider altering the sentence from three months to 90 days so his client could serve his time on weekends. Judge Crawford refused, saying she'd made her decision and if he behaves Mr. Ernst will be released in time to work before going to school in the fall.

posted on 03/25/08
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