The truck driver at the centre of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash has a court date set for Tuesday.
Saskatchewan RCMP confirmed Monday Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, 29, of Calgary will make his first court appearance Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in Melfort Provincial Court.
Sidhu was arrested and charged Friday with 29 counts of dangerous driving, including 16 for dangerous driving causing death and 13 more for causing injury.
At a news conference on Friday afternoon, RCMP explained these are serious criminal charges that go beyond simple traffic offences.
It has been a three-month wait for families of victims and the wider community to hear the result of the investigation into the semi driver.
In an interview over the weekend, Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench said most people in the town were fine with the long wait to make sure the investigation was done properly. He noted the court case will not be easy as it may force many people to relive the tragedy.
Lawyer explains process, charges
Saskatoon-based defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle is not representing Sidhu, but joined Gormley Monday morning to give some insight into the way the court process is likely to play out.
He stressed Sidhu’s charges are on the more serious end of what can arise out of a collision.
“Every case is sort of different. W all know situations where accidents have occurred, and even death has occurred, and there’s no criminal charges. But in this one, the RCMP obviously felt different.”
Should the case go to trial, the Crown will have to prove Sidhu was behind the wheel of the truck and his actions led to the deaths and injuries resulting from the crash.
Pfefferle said those are often the easy parts for the Crown in these type of cases.
“The big hurdle, often, in these situations is to try to prove that the accused driving was in fact dangerous driving,” he said.
Pfefferle explained the courts typically rely on a principle known as the “marked departure standard” when assessing dangerous driving cases.
“The Crown has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this wasn’t just basic driver negligence, it wasn’t a mistake.”
Rather, Pfefferle said convictions often hinge on comparing an accused’s conduct to what a reasonably prudent driver could be expected to do in similar circumstances.
He noted factors like speed, the amount of time spent driving that day, distraction or impairment can all play into a determination of dangerous driving, but stressed he had no inside information on what the Crown might argue in its case.
Each of Sidhu’s dangerous driving causing death charges carries a maximum sentence of 14 years. The dangerous driving causing injury charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years apiece.
Pfefferle said there weren’t many cases to compare to in Saskatchewan, but it would be highly unusual to see consecutive maximum sentences handed down.
He said it was far more likely that, if convicted, Sidhu would be sentenced concurrently – meaning one sentence covering all offences.
Without having more information to go on, Pfefferle guessed a typical range for a potential sentence would be between three and 10 years.
Pfefferle said he would expect Sidhu’s case to take between 18 months and three years to move through the courts, assuming it goes to trial.
None of the charges against Sidhu has been tested in court.