Mom unhappy with sentence given to truck driver in son’s manslaughter

JAPHENE Campbell, mother of seven-year-old Benjamin Bair — the boy who was killed by a garbage truck at Clan Carthy Primary School in St Andrew during a freak accident in October 2019 — cringed on Monday in the High Court in Kingston after hearing the one-year and seven months sentence handed down to Alten Brooks, the driver of the motor vehicle.

Campbell told journalists after the sentencing that she sympathised with the driver, who is a very poor man, but lamented that not once did he make an attempt to apologise for taking her son away from her. She also said the owner of the garbage truck, which was found to be defective after investigations, should be prosecuted.

Campbell was tearful outside the court, saying that her son’s death had devastated the family.

“I am feeling down. I hope my lawyer files a case against the owner of the truck because I need justice for my son. The sentencing is just the start,” she said.

“If someone is to be blamed, I would blame the owner of the truck and the fact that the school gave him permission to come on the compound at that time. It was a faulty truck. It is really rough on all of us, especially my dad and my mom, knowing that they are the ones who helped me to raise him. His sister is still getting counselling from her primary school. She is 11 years old now in grade six and is preparing for PEP. From the incident, I moved from where we lived because I had too many memories. July would be his birthday and he would be 11 years old,” she said.

Davion Vassell, the attorney who represented Brooks, said he was disappointed with the sentence as he was seeking to have the judge impose a non-custodial sentence for manslaughter.

Justice Leighton Pusey, before handing down the sentence, explained that although Bair’s death was unintentional, the driver of the vehicle knew that the truck was faulty.

“The court acknowledges that good things have been said about you. I believe what you did was not intentional. You did not intend to harm anybody but you left the vehicle in such a way that you and any reasonable person ought to understand was dangerous. Matters like these are not to be treated lightly, especially when anyone loses their life. The court understands and respects the kind of remorse you have shown consistently,” the judge said.

As he was being escorted into the court by two policewomen on Monday, Brooks’s face showed someone in pain. As he sat inside the prisoner’s dock awaiting his sentence, Brooks stared at the ground most of the time.

On October 28, 2019 Bair was at his school waiting to be picked up by his mother. The garbage truck, which was contracted by the school, drove onto the compound and began to compact garbage. Brooks, who was operating the defective vehicle, placed a stick on the gas pedal of the truck so as to ensure the compactor section would work properly. While that was happening, the truck was set in motion and got out of control, prompting frightened students to run for their lives. Bair, however, wasn’t able to escape like the others, which resulted in the truck falling on and crushing him. He was pronounced dead at hospital.

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