PICTOU – A 70-year-old Pictou County man will be serving 10 months in jail for driving while impaired and refusing a breathalyzer following a sentencing in Pictou on Friday.
Justice Glen McDougall sentenced John Arthur Gillespie to 10 months for each charge, to be served concurrently.
“Mr. Gillespie, I can only wish you luck as you battle with your drinking problems,” McDougall said.
“I can only trust what I heard you say earlier, that you have turned the corner, you recognize that you have a problem, and you recognize that you cannot even have one drink of alcohol for the rest of your life. You owe that to yourself. You owe that to your family. You owe it to the public.”
He was also handed 24 months of probation with a number of provisions, including abstaining from alcohol or drugs for the entire period.
Gillispie must perform 40 hours of community service, counselling others on the dangers of drinking and driving.
He must participate in Alcoholics Anonymous during his probation, and seek further treatment if his probation officer recommends it.
He is forbidden from obtaining a licence for 10 years and 10 months.
He was found guilty on Aug. 26 after being charged on Feb. 7, 2011, following a car crash in Little Harbour.
He had testified that he had three drinks of whiskey earlier in the day, and left his house around 5 p.m. to drive a friend home. Gillespie and his friend didn’t have a valid licence.
The vehicle went off the road into a snow bank on Egypt Road.
Gillispie was found sitting behind the steering wheel by someone passing by. He testified that he drank some whiskey to keep him warm and another full bottle was found in the car.
The trial was spread over 17 months, beginning on Mar. 8, 2012.
The sentencing itself was also delayed, originally scheduled for Oct. 21.
The defence was given an adjournment to speak to another witness about information for sentencing.
It was rescheduled for Oct. 30, and rescheduled again for Feb. 14.
McDougall set a new date, after telling the Crown and defence he was not prepared to proceed with sentencing due both to his schedule and the close timing to the Christmas holidays.
Gillespie received counselling for alcoholism from July 2011 until May 2012, as part of a one-year probation period he had received in sentencing for another charge.
The counsellor testified that Gillespie was highly motivated and was doing well.
He had reported a year of sobriety and that he felt he no longer needed help.
“There can be little doubt that Mr. Gillespie has an alcohol problem. He admits to this fact. He participated in addictions counselling for approximately one year after his offences occurred. He testified that although he drank for a while after these charges were laid, he was able to maintain sobriety throughout the period when he was involved in counselling. He expressed the view that he had turned the corner and now realizes that he cannot drink nor can he operate a motor vehicle.”
Gillespie testified previously that he would occasionally have a drink because he thought he could handle it, and that he now realizes abstinence from alcohol is the only way to deal with his problem.
The defence was seeking a conditional discharge for curative treatment.
McDougall said in order to grant that, the court must not only consider the need for treatment, but also be satisfied that it would not be contrary to the public interest.