NEWS

Serial Carjacker Gets Life Sentence For Fatal Crash

05/25/2012 01:35 EDT | Updated 07/25/2012 05:12 EDT
Alamy

An Ontario judge was moved to tears while delivering a life prison sentence to a serial carjacker who killed a woman and injured five others after driving a stolen van into her car during a 2010 police chase.

Robert Clifford Smith, 43, was behind the wheel of the stolen Dodge Caravan that T-boned 26-year-old Sarah Attayee's Honda on Valentine's Day in 2010. The province's Special Investigations Unit said Smith, who at the time had racked up more than 150 convictions across six Toronto police divisions, ran a red light as police cruisers tailed him in Scarborough.

Attayee died later in hospital. Five other female passengers in her Honda were hurt.

Smith, who was found guilty of criminal negligence causing death and bodily harm, will not be eligible to apply for parole for 10 years.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Jane Kelly stopped to wipe tears from eyes several times during her remarks to the Toronto courtrooom at the Friday sentencing.

"Mr. Smith, you are totally to blame," she said. "You are a serious and uncontrollable criminal."

Applause broke out from the courtroom when she delivered the sentence. Smith has also been banned from driving anywhere in Canada for life.

"He no longer deserves the privilege of sharing the road with the public and must be separated from the rest of the family," said Justice Kelly.

A life sentence is rare for the charges Smith was convicted of. But police had said Smith's numerous prior convictions make him a dangerous career criminal.

Justice Kelly agreed, saying his "rehabilitation prospects are dim if not nonexistent."

The SIU investigated the circumstances of the chase leading up to the crash and concluded in May 2010 that police did nothing wrong.

The van Smith was driving was reportedly speeding at 100 km/h upon impact. Officers spotted the van and pursued it because it matched the description of a vehicle near the scene of a break-in that evening.

SIU director Ian Scott said in a news release that "in hindsight it may have been preferable to have called the pursuit off due to Mr. Smith's reckless driving," but that he nevertheless felt the officer giving chase "did at the time attempt to balance the public safety interests with the need to apprehend Mr. Smith."