Despite being sentenced on Friday Keith Dunford walked free the same day.
Dunford was found guilty of dangerous driving causing death in mid-October after 18-year-old Ashley Richards died along Highway 39 near Midale in August 2012. The judge found him not guilty of an additional charge of criminal negligence causing death. On Friday, he was sentenced to two years less a day in jail as well as a three-year driving ban once he’s released.
Dunford’s lawyer, Aaron Fox, came back to Regina after the sentencing and quickly filed an appeal on both the conviction and the sentence. Fox explained Dunford was granted bail while the appeal is sorted out.
Fox said their grounds for appeal on the conviction are that Dunford’s right to council were infringed, and that his driving was not criminal conduct.
Keith Dunford’s face was relatively expressionless as he sat in court and then again as an RCMP officer led him out of the Weyburn courthouse in handcuffs after he was sentenced for hitting and killing a young flag worker more than three years ago.
Judge Lana Krogan sentenced him to two years less a day in jail, which means he’ll serve his time in a provincial jail versus a federal prison. He was also sentenced to a three-year driving ban once he’s released.
The deadly crash prompted the provincial government to bring in a number of new measures to protect construction workers, including photo radar in orange zones.
In her decision, Krogan outlined how she believes Dunford carries little risk to re-offend and doesn’t think he needs to be rehabilitated. That said, she explained how the sentence imposed must deter others from doing the same thing. Probation alone would not have been appropriate in this case, Krogan continued, despite urging from defense lawyers. She stated that Dunford didn’t just have a momentary lapse of judgment behind the wheel, as construction signage had been posted for a number of kilometres before the crash scene.
Sentencing arguments were made at the end of October. Crown prosecutor Mitchell Miller had asked for three years in jail plus a five-year ban on driving.
“It’s a sad case and a tragic case that didn’t have to happen,” Miller said outside the courthouse moments after the sentence was handed down.
He wouldn’t comment on whether he’s satisfied with the decision, saying his team would like to first go over the written version of the decision before fully assessing. However, he is offering a message out of this incident.
“When you’re in those orange zones, when you’re in the construction zones, pay attention. That’s your duty. We all as members of society have that duty to take care in those zones so that things like this don’t happen.”
Defense lawyer Aaron Fox, meantime, had asked for no jail time. Instead, he asked for a suspended sentence that would have carried a probation of three years. Fox characterized it as an “intense” probation that could carry house arrest, a lengthy driving prohibition, community service or possibly a fine.
Former Co-Workers React
While Richards’ family and friends were not in court, her former work family was. Those from HJR Asphalt showed up at every stage as this case made its way through the court process, including the sentencing. They aren’t exactly sure how to feel.
“Really mixed. We’ve talked for three years wondering what we want or what we’d like to see for a sentence,” said Glen Willick, who serves in a managerial capacity within the company. “There’s no winners, right? He could get 20 years, it’s not going to bring Ashley back.”
He’s not sure how much time would have been appropriate, but expresses he and others from the company are glad Dunford received some jail time.
Willick feels the most important aspect of this incident is the attention it’s garnered and the hope the message sticks with drivers to slow down and pay attention when driving in construction zones.