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Man sentenced to house arrest for hit and run in North Van crosswalk

Accused, whose visa had expired, likely subject to deportation order following sentence
crosswalk Lonsdale at 5th
A Mexican citizen living in North Vancouver has been handed a conditional sentence for failing to stop after hitting a woman in a crosswalk on Lonsdale Avenue in December 2018.

A North Vancouver driver who left the scene of an accident after hitting a woman with his truck in a marked crosswalk has been handed a 100-day conditional sentence, including 75 days of house arrest and a 16-month driving prohibition. 

Judge Reg Harris handed Roberto Palacios Barba, 28, the sentence in North Vancouver provincial court this month after Palacios Barba pleaded guilty in October to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident on Dec. 14, 2018. 

Court heard on that evening, a 24-year-old woman – an immigrant from Brazil who had recently arrived in Canada – was crossing Lonsdale Avenue at Fifth Street in a marked crosswalk when she was struck by a southbound truck and thrown over 10 metres. 

The driver immediately braked and came to a full stop just beyond the crosswalk and remained there for about 11 seconds, said Crown counsel Linda Ostry. 

But nobody got out to help the woman who was moaning in pain on pavement. Instead, the driver then swerved around the victim, accelerated and fled the scene, said Ostry.  

One witness tried to follow the truck but was unable to get its licence plate number, she told the court. 

The collision was also captured by a camera on the back of a transit bus parked one block south of the accident. 

The victim of the hit and run was rushed to Lions Gate Hospital with injuries including a broken arm, broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and internal injuries to her kidney and liver. 

Later that night, the same police officer who had been called out to the accident scene was outside the North Vancouver RCMP detachment when Palacios Barba approached, saying he wanted to turn himself in, said Ostry. 

Palacios Barba gave a statement that night, admitting to being the driver of the truck that struck the young woman in the crosswalk. 

He told police he had been playing peekaboo with his young son, who was in the truck with him. “I got distracted for a second,” he said. 

After he hit the woman, “everything got blurry in my head,” he told the police officer. “I didn’t know what to do.” 

Palacios Barba told police he was afraid of the impact of the accident on his young son. He also admitted to being a Mexican citizen and having overstayed his visa in Canada. He also had no valid driver’s licence at the time of the accident, said Ostry. 

After Palacios Barba went home with his family, he called a friend from church, court heard, who accompanied him to the police station with his family. “There was no option,” Palacios Barba told police in his statement. “I’m a Christian. The right thing is just to do what God says.” 

Ostry asked for a conditional sentence of between six and nine months plus a two-year driving ban. 

Palacios Barba’s defence lawyer Ali Yusuf told the judge his client panicked, believing that he might be arrested and perhaps even deported immediately if he remained at the scene.  

“This is an individual whose understanding of the situation is not that of an average Canadian citizen,” he said. “This is an individual who was in Canada illegally ... his driver's licence had expired. He's driving a vehicle with a child in the back of the vehicle. He is not supposed to be in the country. ... His English isn't particularly good.” 

Yusuf asked for a conditional sentence of no more than 70 days, adding Palacios Barba’s chances of appealing a deportation order will depend in part on the sentence handed down. He also opposed a court-ordered driving ban, saying his client already faces sanctions from the superintendent of motor vehicles. 

“What has happened to the victim cannot be undone. On the other hand, my client and his family would like to regularize their status. They would like to get to a point in life where they can move on and, and continue with their [cleaning and window washing] business,” he said. 

In handing down his sentence, Harris said there was no reliable evidence suggesting Palacios Barba was speeding or driving dangerously. But during the 11 seconds that he stopped on the road, his main thoughts were about the impact of the accident on himself and his family rather than about the woman he struck, said the judge. 

“Leaving an individual on the roadway after you've struck them, whether or not people are around, and to flee for your own perseverance  it's alarming and shocking,” said Harris. 

But the judge said there were also mitigating factors, including turning himself in within hours of the accident, leading the police to his truck and providing a full statement to investigators.