Wed, October 20, 2004
PERTH -- An Ottawa man who pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death yesterday expressed remorse for the fatal crash that killed OPP motorcycle officer John Flagg. "I never set out to have any of this happen," John Arthur Barry told Justice Stephen March after pleading guilty to charges of criminal negligence causing death, failing to stop for police and possession of stolen property over $5,000.
"As soon as I found out the officer had died, I said I wished it could've been me," said Barry from the prisoner's box, wearing orange jail coveralls and sporting long brown hair and a bushy, full beard.
"I know it caused a lot of hardship for all his friends, family and relatives," he continued. "I'm sorry, Your Honour."
Barry, 38, has been in custody since Sept. 20, 2003, when, according to an agreed statement of facts, he led police on a wild 40-minute chase in his roommate's stolen Jeep CJ that covered more than 75 km and reached speeds of 140 km/h.
Court heard how Barry passed vehicles on the right, drove across sidewalks and the centre line and raced through red lights in Smiths Falls before being spotted by an OPP helicopter entering Almonte where police cruisers lay in wait.
After Barry caused a minor crash, Flagg, a 35-year veteran and member of the Eastern Ontario RIDE unit who had been at the Carleton Place Rural Expo, gave chase on his motorcycle.
After running over a spike belt placed by Ottawa police on March Rd. near Almonte, court heard how Barry crossed the centre line and collided with a pickup truck driven by retired Ottawa police major crime Sgt. Robert Smith.
The collision sent Smith's truck spinning into the path of Flagg's motorcycle, killing the 55-year old father of three.
During sentencing submissions, Barry's lawyer Lawrence Greenspon argued that Flagg might have lived if he hadn't violated OPP policy on police pursuits.
Greenspon said both the OPP's Perth communications centre and helicopter called off the chase, although there's no way of knowing whether Flagg received the radio message.
"This officer shouldn't have died," said Greenspon, arguing the policies on pursuits had been "written in blood" of innocent people killed during chases and are meant to be followed to prevent such fatal crashes.
Greenspon asked that Barry be sentenced to five years in prison on top of the 13 months he has already spent in custody.
But Perth Crown attorney Doug Brown, who asked for an additional seven years in jail time on top of time already served, said no one but Barry can be blamed for Flagg's death.
"These chases, these police pursuits, are not created by the police or Sr. Const. Flagg but are created solely by the the accused before the court and his conduct," said the Crown attorney.
Brown also entered into the record Barry's criminal record, which includes more than 44 convictions for property crimes and a 1996 conviction for fleeing from police.
"When he is approached by the police, he escapes or tries to escape," said Brown, who also asked for a lifetime driving ban and that Barry submit DNA to the national databank.
"He is a career criminal who hasn't slowed down."
Barry is due back in court on Nov. 3 for sentencing.
TOUGH TIME FOR KIN
The victim impact statement of Joan Flagg, wife of OPP Sr. Const. John Flagg, who was killed during a police pursuit on Sept. 20, 2003, that was read into court yesterday:
I have found it very hard to put into words how our girls and four grandchildren feel about the loss of John.
His death has left a very large void in our lives. He is missed and loved even though he is not with us.
Our great-grandson was born three months after his death and he will never know what a loving and caring person John was.
We loved John with all our heart and to have him taken away from us so soon has left an emptiness that nothing can ever repair.
His death has been such a senseless loss.