Tenessa Nikirk, the woman who hit an 11-year-old girl in a Saanich crosswalk three years ago, will be heading to prison after a courtroom sentencing hearing Monday morning.
Nikirk, 24, has been sentenced to two years in prison and will not be allowed to drive for three years upon release.
In January this year, she was found guilty of dangerous driving causing bodily harm after striking 11-year-old Leila Bui with her SUV in December 2017, throwing the girl 26 metres and causing severe brain damage.
“We hope that with this sentencing and decision that the judge has made, it does send a strong message to everybody about the dangers of reckless driving, of texting, of speeding and the devastation that leaves behind when it comes to this,” said Leila’s mother, Kairry Nguyen. “Because it’s the family that has to live with the consequences and we have to live with that for the rest of our life.”
In delivering the sentence, provincial court Judge Mayland McKimm said Nikirk’s driving was particularly aggravating, stopping one small step short of street racing.
Dashcam footage along Ash Road, used in court during the trial in 2019, shows Nikirk driving just moments before hitting Leila. Nikirk crossed the yellow line, passing two cars at once.
Nikirk was going more than a hundred kilometres an hour in a 50 km/h zone and had sent 18 text messages in the 24 minutes before hitting Leila.
McKimm noted Nikirk missed several clear signs of the crosswalk ahead of her and destroyed an innocent human life forever.
As a result, McKimm explained, the sentence needed to be strong enough to deter others from texting and driving.
“We applaud the judge’s decision, it was very right on all levels,” said Leila’s father, Tuan Bui. “He put into perspective the lifelong damage with the consequences of reckless behavior and so we’re glad that it’s finally over.”
This sentence, McKimm said, will show like-minded individuals that this kind of driving will not be tolerated. The injuries caused by this behaviour can be catastrophic, like in this case, and members of the public must understand there are serious consequences as well, he said.
“The only positive that can come out of this prosecution moving forward is the public takes notice that sentences like this will be imposed when they’re behaving in this fashion,” said Crown prosecutor Jess Patterson.
The Crown had originally asked the judge for a sentence of two to three years in prison with a five-year driving prohibition, while the defence had requested a 90-day intermittent sentence that could be served on weekends.
Nguyen added the sentence is bittersweet and although they’re happy they can finally close this chapter of their lives, the impacts will last forever.
“It doesn’t change anything at our end, Leila’s still the way she is,” Nguyen said. “It’s just been a really long journey and we just want this chapter to be over with and just continue moving forward.”