By Lethbridge Herald on June 23, 2020.
It was a somber gathering outside the Lethbridge courthouse as family members of Barney Paul Provost cried in each other’s arms only minutes after a judge sent the man who killed the well-loved and respected Piikani Nation councillor to prison.
Madam Justice Johnna Kubik sentenced Douglas Wilbur Bagnall to five years in a federal penitentiary after he pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of dangerous driving causing death, and admitted that on June 25, 2018, with a blood-alcohol level double the legal limit, he drove down the wrong side of Highway 3 and collided head-on with Provost’s vehicle.
“It’s really hard, it’s really hard on our family,” Barney’s brother Tobias said outside the courthouse following Kubik’s decision.
But while he referred to the incident as a cold-blooded killing, Tobias said the sentence can finally give the family closure and help them find forgiveness.
“We forgive him; we pray for him,” he said.
St. Albert lawyer William Tatarchuk had recommended a sentence of two years less a day, which would have been served given Bagnall’s time already spent in custody. Tatarchuk urged the judge not to give too much weight to his client’s impairment since he did not plead guilty to, and was not being sentenced for, impaired driving.
He also noted in his sentencing submissions that Bagnall has a low IQ and suffers from several alcohol-use disorders and dementia. He questioned whether alcohol could be blamed for the incident or Bagnall’s cognitive attention disabilities.
Crown Prosecutor Erin Olsen said Bagnall should be sent to prison for six to seven years, and insisted alcohol played a major factor in the collision and must be considered in sentencing.
She reminded the judge that Bagnall and his lawyer signed an agreed statement of facts admitting the role alcohol played in the incident.
“It is alleged and admitted that the combination of Mr. Bagnall’s alcohol consumption and driving pattern amounts to dangerous driving, and that as a result of this, Mr. Bagnall did cause the death of Barnaby Provost,” Olsen read from the agreed statement of facts.
Bagnall, 63, was travelling east in the westbound lanes of Highway 3 west of Lethbridge, and drove about three kilometres — forcing other motorists to swerve to avoid him — before he struck Barnaby’s car.
Barnaby’s 13-year-old daughter was in the car, as well, but sustained only minor injuries.
“Mr. Bagnall set in motion a totally preventable, sadly predictable and horrific collision when he drank alcohol to excess and then drove the wrong way at highway speed for a significant distance and time on a busy highway,” Olsen read from her sentencing submissions.
“Mr. Provost’s death was not the product of a momentary lapse in judgment, but the product of one dangerous decision, followed by another, and then another, and then another, all while Mr. Bagnall disregarded the safety of fellow motorists. Mr. Bagnall’s conduct occupies the most blameworthy end of the spectrum of available sentences.”
Bagnall wasn’t charged until several months later, and then he was released a few days afterward on $300 bail, prompting a protest by Provost’s family members. Bagnall subsequently failed to show up for court and breached conditions of his bail — resulting in three breach charges — and was finally arrested again at a city hotel in January 2019.
Bagnall had been committed to stand trial following a preliminary hearing last September in Lethbridge provincial court, and a trial date was to be scheduled during a subsequent hearing. That all changed last December when defence announced the matter would likely be resolved without trial.
In addition to his five-year sentence, which was reduced to three years for time spent in pre-trial custody, Bagnall is prohibited from driving for three years after he is released.
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