NEWS

Crown seeks 6-year sentence in Queen of the North sinking

06/21/2013 10:21 EDT | Updated 08/21/2013 05:12 EDT
Prosecutors in a Vancouver courtroom today asked for a sentence of six years in prison and a lifetime ban on operating a marine vessel for a former BC Ferries officer convicted of criminal negligence causing death.

Last month, a jury decided Karl Lilgert was responsible for the deaths of passengers Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette when the ferry he was navigating crashed into Gil Island and sank to the bottom of Wright Sound in March 2006.

- Read more about the trial of Karl Lilgert

At today's sentencing hearing, Crown prosecutors said the sinking of the Queen of the North was avoidable, and more than a missed turn. The Crown said Lilgert was a professional operator, and he ignored the fundamental rule of his job as a navigator: "Pay attention."

The Crown read six victim impact statements submitted by the affected families.

Foisy's parents wrote that the last time they heard from their son was on Valentine's Day in 2006. They said it was "unbearable" that their son passed away before they did. Foisy's sister wrote that her spirit is forever damaged and her heart broken. She said it was not Gerald's time to go.

Foisy's brother wrote, "I'm so angry my brother died because someone didn't do his job."

Prosecutors also said Lilgert began telling lies moments after the ship ran aground — lies that have continued steadfastly for seven years, and repeated as "explicit lies in court."

The Crown also said Lilgert has shown no remorse.

Lilgert's defence lawyer, Glen Orris, asked the court for no prison time, and instead a conditional sentence of two years less a day.

Orris said that the time from the incident to the trial has taken an "unprecedented" seven years, and that Lilgert has been suffering the entire stretch.

Orris said the former BC Ferries officer has been saddled with rumours in the media about his having had sex on the ship's bridge the night of the sinking. He also said that there may be suicide concerns, as Lilgert suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from the sinking and, more recently, has has to sell his farm in Grand Forks to pay his legal fees.

The defence argued that sending Lilgert to prison wouldn't be a deterrent to other mariners, and would instead be a motivator for them to avoid making judgment calls. Orris also said Lilgert has never tried to place blame on anyone else for the sinking.

Fifty-two letters of support for Lilgert were submitted, and portions of some were read out loud in court.

Then Lilgert addressed the room and made a tearful apology. He said he will live with grief and sorrow for the rest of his life.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein is set to hand down the sentence on Monday.

Lilgert's defence lawyer already indicated that he plans to launch an appeal based on the judge's charge to the jury.

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