House arrest restrictions complicate Pool case

A federal government decision to ban the use of house arrest in some criminal cases has complicated the sentencing hearing for the half-blind octogenarian who ran down and killed a flagman in Fort Langley on Feb. 25, 2008.

Because Ottawa restricted the ability of judges to impose house arrest back in 2007, it appears 88-year-old Glen Valley resident Melle Pool will either go free on probation or go to jail on March 3, when a B.C. Supreme Court court hearing is scheduled to render a verdict.

A conditional sentence of house arrest is not an option.

Pool pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death two years after after the pickup truck he was driving westbound on River Road struck and killed 52-year-old Terrance Mitchell, a Pitt Meadows resident working for the Township of Langley.

Mitchell was flagging at a road construction site near the junction of River Road and Mavis Avenue.

He left behind a wife and large extended family.

Crown counsel Don Wilson told the sentencing hearing that Pool, a retired dairy farmer from Abbotsford, should be imprisoned. Wilson made no recommendation about the length of the jail sentence.

While Pool has no criminal record, the court was told that he continued to drive even after doctors declared him unfit because of poor eyesight. His licence had expired.

Pool’s lawyer argued that his client should not be jailed because of his advanced age and vulnerability to younger inmates.

In 1996, the federal government of the day approved house arrest as an option to jail sentences of two years or less.

It was designed to reduce prison crowding and trim costs of jailing people, currently estimated at more than $100,000 a year.

And it was supposed to be limited to cases when the offender posed little threat to the community.

Critics have complained that “little threat” is not the same as “no threat” and house arrest was not an appropriate option in many cases.

In 2007, the federal government banned its use in certain cases.

Last year, new get-tough legislation was introduced that would further restrict the use of house arrest by forbidding it for cases of arson, fraud, counterfeiting, aggravated assault, street racing causing death and several other crimes.

Mitchell was flagging at a road construction site near the junction of River Road and Mavis Avenue.

He left behind a wife and large extended family.