Crown drops charge after death of child struck by truck
The Crown abruptly withdrew a careless driving charge Thursday, ending a trial stemming from the death of a child struck by a pickup truck while crossing a Bowness street.
Prosecutor Rosalind Greenwood told Provincial Court Judge Josh Hawkes on Thursday she carefully reviewed her case and decided she should no longer proceed.
“The Crown has an obligation to continually assess its case,” Greenwood said, at the start of day two of a scheduled three-day trial against Calgarian Tanis Lambert.
“The Crown has concluded there is no reasonable likelihood of conviction and the Crown is withdrawing the charge.”
Lambert had been charged with careless driving under the provincial Traffic Safety Act following a May 6, 2016, collision in which four-year-old Avayah (Avi) Toulon was struck and killed.
The charge carries a maximum punishment of a $2,000 fine.
Hawkes said judges don’t normally comment when the Crown decides to cease a prosecution, but he felt he should in this instance.
“In my opinion, this represents an entirely appropriate exercise of prosecutorial discretion,” he said.
The judge noted it was “a very difficult case.”
“I believe as a representative of the community I have a responsibility to convey ... our deepest sympathies to the family involved,” Hawkes said. “This is an enormous tragedy; its impact will continue to affect them and I suspect Ms. Lambert for a very long time.”
After the decision, Lambert declined to comment other than to say “it was a terrible accident.” She still faces civil litigation. Before withdrawing the charge, Greenwood met privately with the girl’s parents, Samantha and Craig Toulon, to explain her decision.
The parents declined to speak to the media afterwards, but their civil lawyer Stephen Nelson spoke on their behalf.
“They’re very disappointed and very emotional today about the result and they’re disappointed in the job that the Calgary Police Service and the Crown did in the way this matter was handled,” Nelson said.
He said he felt other witnesses to the incident should have been called to testify.
“We’re a little confused as to why (they weren’t); in any event, we look forward to the whole story coming out eventually,” he said.
Samantha Toulon testified she was walking with her husband and their six children on 79 Street N.W. when they attempted to cross 47 Avenue.
She said while four of her children, including Avi, were in the unmarked crosswalk, Lambert’s Ford F-150 entered the intersection and ran over her daughter.
The mother insisted under cross-examination by defence lawyer Alain Hepner that his client never stopped before the collision occurred. That conflicted with the evidence of neighbour Steven Stredulinsky, who watched as the tragedy unfolded. Stredulinsky said Lambert’s pickup stopped before the crosswalk, he believed, to let people cross.
He said when the truck began to move he saw both the front end and back end jump up, consistent with Samantha Toulon’s testimony that the vehicle’s front and back tires rolled over her daughter.
Hepner said his client is relieved she is no longer facing prosecution.