A judge on Tuesday made a plea for Parliament to consider increasing the $50,000 cap to compensate families of accident victims as he sentenced a reckless driver to almost a year in jail for killing a man in a head-on collision almost a decade ago.
Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds also ordered Jason Samaroo, 40, to pay $50,000 in compensation to Anthony Nelson’s family and disqualified him from driving for two years.
In passing sentence in the San Fernando Third Assizes, the judge said she was acutely aware that no sentence could adequately address the deprivation and devastation to Nelson’s loved ones.
“No amount of compensation, no term of imprisonment, no stern sentiments can assuage the trauma associated with Nelson’s death.”
Samaroo, a father of two, of Morne Diablo, was found guilty by a jury on March 19.
Nelson, 29, sitting in the front seat of his friend’s car, was killed during a head-on collision along the Penal Rock Road.
The State’s case was that Mhina Wharwood, was driving on an “S” corner around 1.30 am on February 23, (J’Ouvert morning) when Samaroo who was heading in the opposite direction crashed into her car. Nelson was killed while Wharwood and two other passengers were injured.
At the previous hearing, Samaroo cried as he begged the judge not to take him away from his wife and two children, ages 14 and eight. His attorney Renuka Rambhajan presented 15 testimonials which described him as a good husband and father and an outstanding member of his community.
As the judge read the victim impact statement of Nelson’s wife, Violet, she described their relationship as a tragic love story.
Violet said she became involved with Nelson at age 16; at 20 she gave birth to their first child, but the child died. Their second child, Jacie, was just eight months old when Nelson died. She lamented that their daughter has to grow up without knowing her father and without his love, protection and guidance.
“I still cannot deal with the loss of Anthony I just put a smile on my face but I grieve every day,” said Violent. She said on a daily basis she has to explain to her daughter “the reason she has no father is because of the recklessness of another man.”
In her statement, Nelson eldest daughter Aleen Edwards, 18, (from a previous relationship), who lives with Nelson’s mother said she was just nine years old when her father died.
Edwards said she misses her father and his death left her feeling heartbroken, sad and empty. Nelson’s mother Lucie Nelson, in her statement, said every day she experiences the indescribable “pain in my belly” she felt on the day he died.
Describing Nelson, her first-born, as her confidante, she said, “Sometimes I feel like I want to die myself. Very often I find myself calling out to Anthony thinking he is still there. I cannot get over the loss. Every time I hear about an accident on the news or see it on television I relive the moment I saw my son that night. It’s like living in a nightmare all the time. All I can say is nothing can bring back my son nor take away this empty feeling inside of me or take away the pain I feel every day. Also having to go through these trials is like living that one day every day,” she stated.
The judge found that an appropriate starting point was two years, but reduced it after considering the mitigating factors, including his remorse, good character and the compensation. He ordered the prisoner to serve 11 months and two weeks in jail.
Samaroo was given until April 2021 to pay $15,000 to Nelson’s eldest daughter, $20,000 to his other child and $15,000 to his wife. The judge told Samaroo that if he pays the full compensation and attends a dangerous driving course before the expiration date of the driving disqualification, he could return to court to have his licence reinstated.
State attorneys Stacy Laloo-Chong and Josanne Forrester prosecuted in the case.
- by Sascha Wilson