Crown asks for 3.5 years jail time for fatal boat crash

Leon Reinbrecht, 54, was found guilty of criminal negligence causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

  • Jun. 2, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Ken Brown

By Tim Petruk, Kamloops This Week

A Crown prosecutor asked a B.C. Supreme Court judge Wednesday for a prison sentence of up to three-and-a-half years for a man convicted of recklessly driving his speedboat into a houseboat on Shuswap Lake, leaving one person dead.

Last fall, Leon Reinbrecht, 54, was found guilty of criminal negligence causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm. His sentencing is taking place now because defence lawyers unsuccessfully launched a Charter argument post-conviction, asking that the case be thrown out due to delay.

On July 3, 2010, following a fireworks display on Magna Bay, Reinbrecht drove his speedboat recklessly on Shuswap Lake, colliding nearly head-on with a houseboat piloted by Ken Brown.

Brown died at the scene. A number of passengers on both boats suffered less serious injuries.

Following a lengthy trial last year, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sheri Donegan found Reinbrecht acted with “reckless disregard for the lives and safety of others.” Court heard he was out for a night-time joyride with his son and his son’s girlfriend and was driving in donuts and at a high rate of speed.

The lake was busy due to the fireworks show that had recently wrapped up and court heard it was a very dark night with little if any moonlight.

In his sentencing submissions Wednesday, Crown prosecutor Neil Flanagan asked Donegan for a sentence reflective of that reckless disregard given the risks of driving dangerously at night on a busy lake.

““Did he think to himself, ‘Oh what the hell, I’m going to do this anyway — I’m having so much fun’?” Flanagan said.

“Or did he not, at least sufficiently, turn his mind toward these risks?”

Flanagan asked Donegan to hand down a sentence that fits Reinbrecht’s crime.

“In cases of this nature, the two primary objectives of a sentence are to first of all denounce the criminal conduct and secondly to deter others from engaging in the same sort of conduct that, in this case, has caused such a great deal of harm,” he said.

“We, and I refer to all Canadian citizens, need to take care that we don’t cause harm to others.”

Court heard Reinbrecht has a criminal record including three convictions for impaired driving, most recently in 2000.

At trial, a Crown witness — one of the passengers on the speedboat — said Reinbrecht had been drinking and smoking marijuana prior to the crash.

“It is troubling,” Flanagan said of Reinbrecht’s history of driving drunk. “It does not cast Mr. Reinbrecht in the most favourable light.”

Flanagan said all of the factors should result in a prison sentence in the range of two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half years, to be followed by a five-year ban on operating a boat.

Defence lawyer Joe Doyle, on the other hand, pitched a two-year prison sentence for Reinbrecht.

Any sentence of two years or longer is served in a federal prison. Doyle described such facilities as intimidating for people who are not hardened criminals.

“The length of that term is less important than the fact of that term,” he said.

“If someone is going to engage in conduct that is criminal, they will be as deterred by a two-year sentence if they are someone who is otherwise law-abiding as they will by a three-and-a-half-year sentence.”

Reinbrecht, who has not said a word in court to other than to declare he was not guilty, responded to a question as to whether he had anything to say.

“I believe Mr. Doyle has already spoke about everything I could possibly say,” Reinbrecht said.

Donegan is expected to deliver a sentence Thursday at 2 p.m.

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