Sun | Oct 1, 2023

Counsel begs clemency for truck driver in fatal Clan Carthy mishap

Published:Saturday | January 21, 2023 | 1:18 AM

The lawyer for the driver of a garbage truck that fatally crushed a seven-year-old Clan Carthy Primary School student has painted a grim picture of a man haunted by guilt since the tragedy, spending many nights crying.

Alten Brooks, who now sports a full head of grey hair and appears much older than his 55 years of age, pleaded guilty to manslaughter under a plea deal last November in connection to the death of grade two student Benjamin Bair.

“When Mr Brooks was taken into custody, he was in custody for two months, and he said it was one of the hardest parts of his life,” attorney-at-law Davion Vassell shared during his submission at the sentencing hearing in the Home Circuit Court on Friday.

“A quiet man, who has never been in any brushes with the law. He was in custody for two months, and during that time, every time I saw him, he was in tears, not just because he was in jail. Even when he had turned himself in and they were describing what had happened I watched him cry, not because he is in trouble but because a little boy had lost his life,” the attorney added.

Admitting that Benjamin was killed under very tragic circumstances, Vassell said, “May we never have to live with the guilt that is being experienced by Mr Brooks.”

He pointed out that Brooks had jumped into action when he saw the truck running away and had tried to get to the cabin, but fell.

Describing his client as a quiet, hardworking, loyal and reliable worker, the attorney said Brooks was given a truck to operate that was not in perfect shape.

Presiding judge Justice Leighton Pusey had indicated on Monday that he would not be accepting a recommendation for Brooks to be fined and was inclined to hand him a prison term.

During his submission, Vassell asked the judge to consider a non-custodial sentence, highlighting that members of the communities in Brighton, Westmoreland, where Brooks originated, and in Bull Bay, St Andrew, where he currently resides, have also begged for leniency.

Noting that it is the usual practice for manslaughter convicts to be given a fine or a suspended sentence, the lawyer further asked the judge to consider whether Brooks’ case was considered as one of the most egregious kinds, where nothing other than incarceration would suffice.

Vassell also impressed upon the judge to observe the way the court has been dealing with these matters.

After hearing the submissions, Justice Pusey said he needed time to determine the sentence in light of issues in law raised by Vassell and the fact that he had rejected the recommended sentence.

Consequently, the passing of the sentence was scheduled for next Thursday.

The court heard that on October 28, 2019, Brooks and two sidemen drove on to the school compound at approximately 4:30 p.m.

The sidemen told Brooks to operate the compactor, which ran on the throttle of the vehicle, so they could get more space in the truck for the garbage.

The truck driver then used a stick to press down on the accelerator pedal before exiting the vehicle and heading to the back of the truck.

While he was outside, the truck drove off and overturned after it collided with a Toyota motorcar parked on the compound.

Several students began running to avoid being hit when the truck started moving, but Bair, who was among them, was pinned down by the unit when it overturned, killing him on the spot.

Brooks and his two sidemen then fled the scene.

Brooks surrendered three days later.

Vassell told the court that his client ran because threats were being hurled at him and he was in fear for his life.

An examination of the vehicle found that there was excessive free play of the steering wheel due to worn defective components and that the tyres were worn and not roadworthy.