Thu | Nov 30, 2023

'He did not even say sorry' - Mother says of garbage truck driver sentenced for death of her son

Published:Monday | January 30, 2023 | 5:49 PM
Benjamin Bair was killed on October 28, 2019 after the garbage truck which was said to be defective moved off, crashed into another vehicle, overturned, and fell on top of him. File photo

"He did not even say sorry", a tearful Japhene Campbell, the mother of seven-year-old Banjamin Bair, said after Alten Brooks, the driver of the garbage truck which killed her son in 2019, was sentenced to one year and seven months in prison.

The sentence was handed down by Justice Leighton Pusey in the Supreme Court on Monday.

A crestfallen Brooks, dressed in a plaid shirt, blue jeans, slippers and navy blue socks, hung his head as Justice Pusey gave his summation before handing down the custodial sentence.

Justice Pusey had rejected a plea deal reached with the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for a non-custodial sentence and a fine not exceeding $800,000.

At today's sentencing, the Judge said although Brooks was not at the wheel of the truck, which was collecting garbage at Clan Carthy Primary School, where the incident occurred, his actions contributed to the situation which resulted in the death of young Bair.

Brooks' lawyer, Davion Vassell, had told the court that Brooks took the plea deal the first time it was offered, and although the incident took the life of the promising first grader, it was an unfortunate accident.

Vassell asked the judge to consider imposing a non-custodial sentence, highlighting that members of Brooks' community asked for leniency given that it was a tragedy.

He proposed that a fine be considered or a suspended sentence or even probation.

The lawyer said his client was not a criminal and asked the judge to consider whether Brooks' case was one of the most egregious kinds where only incarceration would suffice.

“I would be very disappointed if he gets a custodial sentence given the jurisprudence and the society enquiry report which are in favour of my client. The supervisor said he was Mr Reliable. Maybe if he wasn't that reliable he would not be in the current situation,” Vassell told The Gleaner prior to the arrival of the Judge.

Justice Pusey said, however, that he was of the view that Brooks should be incarcerated as his action on the day was responsible for the death of the youngster.

“I am very disappointed with the outcome and the custodial sentence. Very disappointed,” said Vassell afterwards.

He acknowledged that, “A mother lost her son, and a 55-year–old man with a clean record is going to prison for a freak accident. It's just sad all round,” he said.

Bair's mother told The Gleaner she felt sad for the accused, but expressed disappointment he had not told her sorry for the incident.

"I think he should have said something to me, but he did not even say sorry," Campbell said, adding that "I think it would make me feel a little better."

She also said she believes the school should also be held responsible.

Benjamin Bair was killed on October 28, 2019 after the garbage truck which was said to be defective moved off, crashed into another vehicle, overturned, and fell on top of him while he was waiting on the school compound to be collected by his relatives.

Brooks was arrested and charged following the tragedy.

- Erica Virtue

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