A woman accused of driving drunk and killing a motorcyclist on Canada Day has been released to an addictions treatment centre in Surrey as part of her bail conditions.
Janarthan Mahenthiran, 47, died when a oncoming Lexus crossed the line and hit his Yamaha FZ-1 head-on on the Trans-Canada Highway in Langford. The southbound Lexus plowed into him north of the Spencer interchange bridge at about 12:20 p.m. on July 1.
Tracy Dawn Smith, 35, of Victoria is charged with dangerous driving causing death and impaired driving causing death. She is also charged with breaching a previous bail condition, linked to an assault, of not possessing or consuming alcohol.
Smith appeared in Western Communities Courthouse via video Thursday morning from a custody centre in Surrey. She wore baggy grey prison garb, and sat quietly.
Her mother and sister sat in the audience, as did a row of motorcycle riders out to support Mahenthiran. Most of the victim’s relatives live in Toronto.
Judge Lorna-Jeanne Harvey agreed with Crown and the defense to release Smith into the custody of VisionQuest Recovery Society in Surrey.
Smith’s conditions include not leaving VisionQuest’s Harte House facility unless accompanied by a staff member and attending all treatment programs. She is prohibited from driving a vehicle and consuming or possessing any drugs or alcohol, and must pay $5,000 bail.
Smith’s attorney Robert Jones said his client’s family is devastated by the incident, but relieved she is going into addictions treatment. The family doubted they could properly monitor Smith on their own, Jones said.
“The family wants to express their condolences to the victim. They are deeply upset at the situation,” Jones said outside the courthouse on Thursday. He said he’s only known his client for a short time and couldn’t comment on how long Smith has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction.
“We believe she’s had some problems with some substance abuse and alcohol in past few months. It’s imperative in my view and the family’s view that she get some couselling and treatment.”
Her next court hearing in Colwood is Aug. 11 where Jones might enter a plea for his client, if Crown discloses its evidence by then. If she pleads not guilty, Smith can choose a trial by judge or judge and jury.
Marc Pootmans, a motorcycle rider and friend of Mahenthiran, said he and other riders came to court to support the victim’s family and to speak out against weak sentencing for people who drink, drive and run over motorcyclists.
“There’s been very little penalty for drunken driving while killing a motorcyclist,” he said. “As motorcyclists we want to be safe on the streets.”
Pootmans said its unsettling not knowing how secure the treatment facility is or how easy it could be for Smith to break her bail conditions again, referring to her alleged breach of her assault charge.
“She is allegedly guilty of having killed somebody,” Pootmans remarked, “but one of our friends is not allegedly dead.”
Jim O’Rourke, executive director of the VisionQuest Recovery Society, said his recovery houses are no day at the beach – staff regularly treat and counsel prolific offenders, typically people with 30-plus convictions.
VisionQuest has seven recovery houses on the Mainland and one specifically for women – Harte House. The house has video monitoring and three staff members for up to 15 to 18 women in early addiction recovery.
It’s not a prison and doesn’t lock its doors at night, but O’Rourke said if those in treatment deviate from the recovery program or break bail conditions, they will quickly find themselves back behind bars.
“This is not a get out of jail free card or a way to beat the system. We are not known to be gentle,” said O’Rourke, who earned kudos last year for helping CTV News uncover a methadone kickback scheme from a pharmacy. “If (the client) blinks the wrong way we’ll put her back in jail. We take our drugs seriously.
“We are giving people a chance to get better and make reparations to society for what they’ve done. Or it’s go to jail and throw away the key.”