senior jailed after hitting 10th impaired driving conviction

A man who racked up three more convictions for impaired driving on top of seven previous convictions, was jailed recently despite a long, impassioned plea by his defence lawyer for a version of house arrest.

Richard Lee Joseph, 71, was arrested three times in fewer than three months during the summer of 2021 and, on two of those occasions, he was found unconscious behind the wheel at his Ohsweken seniors’ residence.

“He expresses regrets but doesn’t feel he requires further treatment,” said assistant Crown attorney Josh Mociak. “That should cause this court concern.”

“He said he’s considering returning to AA meetings, but I would think someone with 10 convictions for impaired (driving) would be a lifetime member of AA.”

Justice Gethin Edward agreed, raising his own concerns about the number of times Joseph was arrested and released by police under orders not to be in a driver’s seat.

Joseph was found in the parking lot of an LCBO on April 27, 2021, and tests showed blood-alcohol readings of 280 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of blood. A reading of higher than 80 mg is illegal.

On the afternoon of Aug. 10, he was asleep at the wheel of his van in his seniors’ complex and, when officers got him out of the vehicle they had to grab him to keep him upright. The front seat of the van was littered with empty beer cans and bottles and Joseph’s blood alcohol readings were 280 mg and 260 mg.

Less than six weeks later, Joseph was again slumped over the wheel of his van at the complex, and police had to help him get out. His readings were 300 mg and 288 mg. He was held in jail.

Joseph pleaded guilty to three counts of impaired operation, a charge normally met with a large fine.

Since making bail, said defence lawyer Alison MacDonald, Joseph has been sober and following the terms of his release.

“He’s abiding by everything and following court orders to a T,” said the lawyer.

MacDonald argued, due to the man’s age, Indigenous status, difficult life and time already served, a set of tight restrictions could be akin to a jail sentence for him.

“Essentially he’ll be treated like a child who is not allowed to live on his own or allowed to go to the LCBO. A community sentence can address it all.”

Edward disagreed.

“His record is horrendous. Those are the three highest consistent readings I’ve seen one individual plead to.”

And, said the judge, the people of Six Nations deserve to be protected from drunk drivers just as much as any other community.

A major proponent of the Indigenous court system, Edward said he remembers a comment made to him when he presented information on that system to the Six Nations elected council and was challenged by Coun. Helen Miller.

“She said, ‘What makes you think we want people to get a Gladue slap on the wrist and come back to our community to raise havoc?’ and that’s stuck with me. The people in that community are as deserving of walking down the street safely as any other.”

When invited to speak, Joseph said drinking had led him to pain, financial stress and loss of friendships.

“Go easy on me,” he said.

Edward responded by sentencing him to a month on the first count of impaired driving, two months on the second count and three months on the third, to be served consecutively. He added probation of two years where he has to abstain from alcohol and live with his surety and then eight years of driving prohibitions.

“You haven’t hurt or killed anyone in all the times you’ve been found guilty of driving drunk, which is probably more good luck than good management.

“The courts will not deal with this leniently.”

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