Driver in Halu Sushi deaths will stay behind bars

A review board dedicded Monday that Brian Craig Irving will spend another year at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam.

Brian Craig Irving crashed his truck into Halu Sushi in August 2008

Brian Craig Irving crashed his truck into Halu Sushi in August 2008

The man who drove his pickup truck into a Maple Ridge sushi restaurant in 2008, killing two people and injuring six others, drank and drove a truck around the Lower Mainland last year, the B.C. Review Board heard Monday.

After serving two years of conditional discharge in the community, Brian Craig Irving, 55, was sent back to hospital for a year, with the possibility of day passes, at the hearing in the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam.

Crown prosecutor Lyle Hillaby was surprised Irving had his licence reinstated.

“It’s astonishing to me that he would make the decision to acquire the vehicle and drive it after he drank.”

Irving drove down to the Lower Mainland from Cranbrook, with permission from his case management team, after his dad died and also saw his children.

“That was quite an ordeal actually,” Irving he told the board.

After being found not criminally responsible, Irving had been released from the hospital in January 2009 under tight community supervision in Cranbrook, but against medical advice.

His truck, worth about $3,000, was given to him by his brother. Irving has said he wasn’t intoxicated when he was driving.

Irving sat facing the Review Board panel, dressed in jeans, T-shirt and white running shoes with Velcro fasteners, flanked by his lawyer and caseworker.

He told the board alcoholism is not an easy problem to solve and said he’d do whatever he has to solve his drinking problem.

“I don’t know whether I would go out there and drive again. I have no idea. I hope I never will drink again.”

He thinks about what happened at Halu Sushi every day, but said if he dwells on it, he gets depressed.

“You don’t sound very confident about your ability to stay away from alcohol,” replied Review Board member Kim Polowek.

Maija-Liisa Corbett, 19, and Hysehim Oh, 46, were killed in the Halu Sushi crash when Irving’s truck plowed through the restaurant’s front window in August 2008 in Westgate Centre.

Two children, Juanita and Joel Corbin, were seriously injured and are still suffering effects.

The review board also heard that during the second year of his conditional discharge, Irving drank twice last October and was found with a bottle of booze around Christmas time.

This January, in one his regular blood samples that he was required to provide to the RCMP, his blood level read 0.4 – about five times the legal blood/alcohol limit for driving. He had not been driving at the time.

He said that when he drank in the past year, he “decided to drink.”

“I don’t have cravings.”

He said he doesn’t drink in public, but in his own home.

“I get bored. I get lonely. I don’t know what to do with myself. I guess that’s my outlet.”

He also wanted to travel across Canada and said he’s been working for 30 years.

“So it’s time to see the world.

“I just wish it would be over so I can get on with life and just continue with life and be happy. I’m just sad now.”

Deborah Lovett, representing the hospital, asked for the year-long detention because of Irving’s alcohol dependence and his problems with withdrawal.

Irving had no alcohol in his blood at the time he crashed into Halu Sushi at Westgate mall, but experts agreed he was suffering from delirium tremens, caused by alcohol withdrawal.

The hospital is awaiting further tests to evaluate more closely the brain damage Irving suffered in a January 2008 fall and whether that affects his judgment.

Lovett said there was a high likelihood of relapse and the January reading was the third instance showing Irving had been drinking.

During the hearing, Irving’s psychiatrist in Cranbrook Richard Magee, said a CT scan of Irving’s brain showed an injury the size of a quarter adding that under Irving’s first year in the community he was closely supervised and had close family support.

“There was considerable surveillance on him. Under these conditions, we were able to maintain sobriety.”

Hillaby also pointed out that Irving’s behaviour during that time was “exemplary.”

But once supervision relaxed in 2011 in the second year of conditional discharge, “he went back to it (booze) fairly easily and fairly readily,” Magee said.

“This fellow is essentially a lifelong alcoholic. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of insight (about the implications of his drinking) here.

There is “an extraordinarily high likelihood of relapse at this point.”

The Review Board heard that Irving’s since been kicked out of his brother’s house and both his brother and mother believe hospital is the best place for him.

Under the Criminal Code, for someone considered not criminally responsible, a Review Board can order an absolute discharge, a conditional discharge or detention in a hospital.

Hillaby pointed out the initial order wasn’t for someone who was drinking and driving. “This is a disposition of a guy who was trying not to drink.”

Magee though couldn’t say whether Irving’s frontal lobe brain injury has reduced his impulse control.

However, Irving’s treating psychiatrist at the hospital, Dr. LeeAnne Meldrum, said his brain injury could affect his impulse control and that Irving was showing some symptoms of frontal lobe damage. Test results should confirm that he’d need a high level of supervision, she said.

She also pointed out that a blood-alcohol reading of .25 could require medical treatment in many people.

Irving also told her last month that he wanted to get his driver’s licence back, return to his apartment and travel across Canada.

But he would require drugs to ensure he didn’t go into withdrawal because of abstaining from alcohol, she pointed out.

Hillaby said Irving was motivated by contrition in the first year of conditional discharge, but now “he wants to see the world.

“This seems like a markedly different attitude from before.”

His caseworker at the hospital also said recently he hasn’t shown “a lot of empathy towards the victims.

“It’s more focused on how his life has been affected.”

Irving though said he’d like to continue with his Alcohol Anonymous program.

“They understand what’s going on with my life and they can relate.”

He said he’d be interested in living in the community in a place where he can get help and “try to solve this problem that I have.”

Hillaby wanted a prohibition against Irving on owning or operating a vehicle.

But the custody order issued Monday by board chair Ann Pollak, only said Irving wasn’t to drive a vehicle and not consume alcohol. Irving consented to the one-year term.

Under the order, Irving could also have 28 days leave within that year, when he would be placed in a supportive living facility in order to see if he would be suitable for later placement in the community.

While under that trial period, he’d have to undergo daily testing for alcohol use.

He could also get unsupervised access outside the hospital, depending on his risk assessment.

Irving said he was “extremely sorry” for what happened.

“I know I have changed their lives.”

Irving told the hearing he was easy going, likeable person. “As far as I know, most people like me.”

Then said he had no idea why he leaves a trail of destruction. “Well, I do know why – it’s because of alcohol. It’s a no brainer.”