Man who killed woman while driving against doctor's orders handed compassionate sentence

·2 min read
Anjna Sharma, 48, was killed on May 23, 2017, when James Beagrie, a man who shouldn't have been driving because of a brain tumour, drove into her as she walked near Sunridge Mall.  (Anja Sharma/Facebook - image credit)
Anjna Sharma, 48, was killed on May 23, 2017, when James Beagrie, a man who shouldn't have been driving because of a brain tumour, drove into her as she walked near Sunridge Mall. (Anja Sharma/Facebook - image credit)

A Calgary judge offered compassion in sentencing a man with a potentially terminal brain tumour who killed a woman by driving after his doctor told him not to.

James Beagrie lost consciousness while driving in May 2017, killing Anjna Sharma, 48, a beloved wife and mother of three who was out for a walk while on a break from work.

Originally charged with criminal negligence causing death, Beagrie pleaded guilty last year to dangerous driving causing death.

Earlier this week, prosecutor Kane Richards proposed a 2½-year prison term with a 7½-year driving ban. Defence lawyer Allan Fay argued for two years in custody and a five-year driving prohibition.

"Justice without compassion is not justice at all," said Court of Queen's Bench Justice Richard Neufeld in handing down a 27-month sentence with a 7½-year driving ban.

Just three months before Sharma was killed, Beagrie had blacked out and crashed while driving. He also told his doctor he'd recently lost consciousness at work three or four times.

Still, Beagrie got behind the wheel of his Ford F-150 on May 23, 2017.

At the sentencing hearing, victim impact statements from Sharma's husband and three children were read aloud.

Sharma's husband of 23 years, Suneet Sharma, said he feels "battered and bruised" and would never feel whole again without her.

"My heart suffers from the deepest wound — a wound from which I will never recover."

Her children — who were 12, 15 and 19 at the time of the crash — described struggling with anxiety, depression and anger, as well as missing school.

Neufeld addressed Beagrie directly Thursday afternoon.

"This ordeal does not need to define the rest of your life just as I truly hope it will not define the rest of the lives and happiness of the Sharma family," said the judge. "Based on what I have learned from the victim, Mrs. Sharma, I think she would agree."

Beagrie's health 'precarious'

Beagrie had been diagnosed with a benign brain tumour in January 2013.

In February 2017, Beagrie was in a car accident in Drumheller, Alta., after he blacked out while driving.

He met with his family doctor twice and was required to fill out paperwork for Alberta Transportation.

Over three months, Beagrie missed the deadline to file the paperwork twice and was advised by the department on May 12 that his licence would be suspended on June 6.

Although benign, the tumour hasn't been checked since 2018. But if it continued to progress, survival rates are less than 12 months, Neufeld noted in his decision.

Because of Beagrie's precarious health condition, Neufeld lowered what would be a 30-month sentence to 27 months.

"A sentence of 2.5 years — I hope this is not the case — may turn out to be a life sentence," said Neufeld.

"I do not accept that your life is over … I hope you will recover."