Joshua Burt will spend the next three years behind bars for impaired driving causing death, a judge decided Thursday, (Malone Mullin/CBC)
Joshua Burt learned his fate Friday inside a hushed St. John's courtroom packed with the loved ones of the man he killed on Pitts Memorial Highway in 2022.
Burt collided with Brad Kerrivan in his Ford F-150 after speeding the wrong way up a highway entry ramp. Burt's blood alcohol level was 2½ times the legal limit, and he had been driving 129 km/h, when he killed Kerrivan.
Burt pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death, avoiding a lengthy trial, in exchange for a shorter sentence.
Judge James Walsh agreed to the plea deal arranged by lawyers and sentenced Burt to just over three years in prison, plus a five-year driving ban after his release. The maximum sentence for drunk driving causing death is life in prison.
Walsh said he struggled to agree to the sentence, but felt he couldn't legally justify rejecting the plea deal, despite acknowledging the Crown had a strong case against Burt. Walsh suggested that may have fuelled the convicted man's decision to take the deal.
"Across the nation there's been a movement to impose longer sentences in cases like this one," Walsh told the courtroom. "In other provinces, sentences are generally getting harsher."
Walsh noted that drunk driving kills more people than any other crime in Canada, and continues to wreak devastation on families and communities despite ongoing awareness campaigns. He also noted longer sentences for drunk driving are widely seen to act as a deterrent for otherwise law-abiding people.
Kerrivan leaves behind a grieving family, including a 10-year-old son.
"The raw and deep hurt ... is profound and immeasurable," Walsh said. "This senseless loss of life should not have happened."
Kerrivan a 'giant' who lit up the room
Kerrivan's loved ones packed the courtroom, some standing along the wall, as Walsh handed down his sentence.
After the hearing, his partner told reporters the world had lost someone irreplaceable.
"Brad was a giant. Every time he entered a room, he had a smile," said Dwan Street. "He just had an effect on people. Such a positive impact on the world."
But no matter the sentence, it wasn't going to bring back Kerrivan, Street continued.
"It's not going to stop the anger, the grief, the pain," she said. "We can only hope that even though the sentence is short, it will be a deterrent going forward for those who make the choice to get behind the wheel impaired."
Brad Kerrivan's partner Dwan Street says she hopes the sentence deters people from driving while impaired. (Dwan Street)
Kerrivan's sister, Jenine Kerrivan, called the short sentence a symptom of a broken system.
"Nothing will ever bring him back," she said. "But I feel that Josh Burt should have been made to pay at a greater level.... Given the precedents in Canada, it was a hard pill to swallow, a hard truth, that we all just had to accept."
She broke down in tears, pleading with the public to abide by impaired driving laws and noting how many friends and family members had lost their loved one due to Burt's decision.
"Don't drink and drive. You will ruin lives," she said.
"If you get behind the wheel of a car, you could take away someone's everything."