In Summerside provincial court Monday, Todd Robert Arsenault, an admitted alcoholic, received three years of probation as part of a conditional discharge on the single count of impaired driving.
The Crown had requested a jail sentence of 120 days while Arsenault’s lawyer, Carla Kelly, using a not often used section of the Criminal Code, argued that a conditional discharge — with a lengthy probation term and strict terms for Arsenault to get help for his addiction — would better serve her client.
Section 255(5) states: “a court may, instead of convicting a person on an offence committed under section 253, after hearing medical or other evidence, it considers that the person is in need of curative treatment in relation to his consumption of alcohol or drugs and that it would not be contrary to the public interest… be discharged under section 730 on the conditions prescribed in a probation order.”
Arsenault was caught drunk behind the wheel on Nov. 27, 2011, in Nova Scotia, a charge that transferred from the province to be dealt with the Summerside court.
Arsenault was convicted in 2005 and 2007 of impaired driving.
Judge Jeff Lantz, in rendering his decision on sentencing Monday, noted that section 255(5) has only been used on rare occasions — only one to his knowledge — in sentencing for impaired driving.
He said the section is used when “other methods such as jail” haven’t worked to curb the accused’s drinking or address their addiction and that all other methods to keep the disease under control have been exhausted.
“He’s not scared of jail but doesn’t feel it would help him,” Lantz said, adding that according to evidence given by an addictions expert working with Arsenault, he is “motivated” to deal with his alcoholism.
That expert told the court the probability of Arsenault having success is high if he follows recommendations set out for him for treatment.
“Obviously he has a problem,” said Lantz. “Jail hasn’t worked.”
He added, “Maybe it is time to try something else.”
Lantz ruled that Arsenault be conditionally discharged and placed him on probation for three years with terms that he refrain from consuming alcohol or any other mind altering substances; undergo assessment, counselling and treatment for any addictions issues; refrain from operating a motor vehicle unless it is equipped with an alcohol interlock device and perform 100 hours of community service work.
Arsenault must also submit to drug screening when requested, keep all appointments with addictions services and attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
He is also prohibited from driving for two years.