The man convicted in the drunk driving crash that led to the death of West Shore RCMP Const. Sarah Beckett has been granted day parole for six months.
Kenneth Fenton was given a five-and-a-half year prison sentence in July 2017.
Beckett, 32, was killed in the line of duty in April 2016 when Fenton, who was speeding away from another police car, struck the driver’s side of her cruiser. Beckett, a mother of two boys, had recently returned to work after maternity leave.
Fenton’s first parole hearing was Jan. 21. He was granted limited day parole to attend alcohol abuse treatment in the Fraser Valley in a program that would last about 70 days.
At the time, Beckett’s widower Brad Aschenbrenner said Fenton needed treatment but felt disgusted that he was let out to receive it.
Now, Aschenbrenner says he is still disgusted and is looking to local politicians for an answer as to why Fenton was granted parole.
“I’m just absolutely disgusted on how Canada can have these values,” Aschenbrenner told Black Press Media in a phone interview Saturday, calling Fenton’s punishment “a slap on the wrist.”
Fenton’s trial heard his truck was travelling at up to 90 kilometres per hour when it rammed Beckett’s cruiser at an intersection. He later pleaded guilty to charges relating to driving with blood alcohol content of over 0.08, causing an accident resulting in bodily harm, as well as failing to stop for police.
One month after the crash, Fenton lost control of his vehicle again while impaired by alcohol and speeding away from police. His vehicle rolled over and he caused injury to himself and a passenger.
Aschenbrenner said he knew Fenton was due for another parole hearing this week, but after providing an impact statement he found out Fenton withdrew his right to a panel hearing.
As a result, the Parole Board of Canada conducted a paper review of Fenton’s file and informed Aschenbrenner of the decision that was made in-camera. Aschenbrenner said he believes the family should have a right to be there during the process.
“I don’t understand why any criminal should have the right to a closed-door hearing,” Aschenbrenner said.
The Parole Board of Canada granted Fenton day parole for six months with special conditions. Fenton must return to the facility he is currently in nightly. He will need to demonstrate a period of stability and compliance before any overnight leave is considered.
Additionally, Fenton must not consume, purchase or possess alcohol and drugs other than prescribed medication.
He must not have direct or indirect contact with Beckett’s family, friends or co-workers and he must report all intimate relationships and friendships with females to his supervisor. In fact, he can’t enter West Shore communities including Colwood, Metchosin, Langford or Sooke.
He can’t own or operate a motor vehicle and Fenton must follow a treatment plan or program arranged by his parole supervisor.
According to the Parole Board of Canada decision, the board considered Fenton’s sentence and the incidents that led to his incarceration as well as victim impact statements.
“These statements express the trauma and loss that the family of the deceased officer, wife, mother and daughter experienced at the time of death and onward,” the decision reads. “They reflect the shock of the community. Serious harm occurred.”
The decision also says that Fenton demonstrated “a disregard for the safety of others for a long time prior to the index offence” with reports noting his drunk driving increased in severity over time. Fenton’s file also says he has had issues with alcohol abuse for most of his adult life, using alcohol to cope with the suicides of his friends.
“But he has yet to accept responsibility of his actions,” Aschenbrenner said.
In his personal impact statement, Aschenbrenner notes Fenton’s “irresponsible” behaviour dating back to 2010, stating that had he been held accountable for earlier offences, Beckett may not have been killed.
“This did not only affect me, my boys, my family, it has completely torn apart the West Shore detachment,” his statement reads.
“Especially when the courts have failed them up to this point. Driving through that intersection reliving the video of the first responders pulling my wife’s broken body from her cruise is unbearable.
“How do you think all the other first responders think driving through that intersection? And they have to do it every day.”