QUEBEC — A Quebec man who killed four members of the same family in a car crash last September in Quebec City has been handed one of the toughest sentences ever given in the province for a drunk driving conviction.
Quebec court Judge Jean-Louis Lemay sentenced Éric Légaré on Friday at the Quebec City courthouse to 16 years in prison.
“The only cause of this fatal crash is the criminal conduct of the accused,” Lemay said.
James Fletcher, 68; his daughter, Shellie Fletcher-Lemieux, 44; and her two children, Emma Lemieux, 10, and Jackson Fortin, 14, were all killed in the crash, and two other people in a separate vehicle were injured.
The Crown had sought a sentence of between 18 and 20 years for Légaré, while his lawyer had countered with a 10-year prison term.
Légaré, 44, had pleaded guilty to several charges last Dec. 14, including impaired driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death.
Lemay noted in his judgment that Légaré was driving at least 130 kilometres an hour in a 70 km/h zone in the city's Beauport district. The level of alcohol in his blood was nearly three times the legal limit, and he also had a high amount of cannabis in his system.
Légaré had admitted to spending the afternoon in a bar consuming seven glasses of wine and three shooters before getting behind the wheel.
Lemay said video captured Légaré stumbling to get inside his car and striking parked vehicles while pulling out of the parking spot. Another video taken from a municipal bus showed him missing a stop sign and driving erratically.
“An accident is an event that is sudden and unexpected,” Lemay said. “Taking the decision to drive after drinking, and if by this gesture it leads to death or injury — even if it is not premeditated — it’s a crime and not an accident.”
He had previously been convicted of drunk driving in 2017 and Légaré had also been cited for excessive speed eight times between 2007 and 2020.
Légaré had repeatedly expressed his remorse for the crash, noting that his consumption had increased during the pandemic.
With time already served, Légaré will have 15 years and 15 days left in his sentence. He is banned from driving for 25 years.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2022.
— By Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal.
The Canadian Press