AZARD ALI and SEETA PERSAD
Two families whose homes were damaged on Saturday when a drunk driver smashed into their house, yesterday pleaded with a magistrate not to send him to jail.
Magistrate Lisa Singh-Phillip, in the San Fernando Magistrates’ Court, told 42-year-old Nigel Jacob that she was minded to send him to jail. Jacob confessed on Monday that he drank eight beers and four shots of Puncheon rum and yesterday he thanked the magistrate in advance for sparing him a prison sentence. But Jacob must keep a promise to pay the cost for rebuilding the families’ damaged house.
Jacob and his co-worker - a female security guard - were drinking at a bar at Wellington Road, Debe. He entered the co-worker’s car, not being the holder of a driver’s permit, and sped off. He ran off the road a short distance away and crashed into the house occupied by two separate families consisting of four children, two husbands and their respective wives. One occupant, 38-year-old Reena Sookhai appealed to the Ministry of Housing to provide temporary accommodation. Her children are Vishal, 16, Gaitree, 13, and Varun 7.
Yesterday, when Jacob reappeared for sentencing before Singh-Phillip, he said his co-worker was more drunk than him, so, he decided to take the car instead to pick up a friend. On that charge, the magistrate entered a plea of not guilty on Jacob’s behalf. On Monday he had pleaded guilty to driving dangerously under the influence of alcohol (105 mg per 100 ml), without driver’s licence and without insurance.
Owner of the house Vijanti Seudath yesterday took to court large colour photos of the damage caused by Jacob.
The magistrate asked Seudath where there were living. She replied, “We have nowhere to live now. We cannot live in the house. The top concrete part could fall anytime. The children sleeping by the aunts. The mothers too.”
The woman gave an estimate of $40,000 to repair her house. She said furniture and the children’s books were destroyed, but the family managed to salvage the Hindu murtis which were knocked over.
“I now take a loan to buy a car, now I will have to take another loan to build the house,“ Seudath told the magistrate.
Saying if she sends Jacob to jail Seudath and her family may or may not get compensation, Singh-Phillip suspended his sentence on the drunk driving and dangerous driving charge. She said she wants to see how Jacob deals with the compensation to the families, the cost of which is to be determined by a proper estimate. The magistrate said she does not have the power to order compensation in such a sum, but it is left to Jacob to make good on his promise.
Jacob was fined $1,000 for driving without a licence and he has been disqualified from obtaining one for three years. He was fined $4,000 for driving without insurance.
Asked if she agrees with the magistrate’s sentence, Seudath said Jacob deserves a chance at this time when glad tidings are being spread. She said when he crashed into the wall and emerged from the car, he was very apologetic and almost wept. “He felt sorry for what he did. I don’t want to see him go to jail. He was very cooperative with all of us at the scene. We forgive him.”
Jacob is on $50,000 bail to return to court on January 9.