Woman who was sentenced to 2 years for injuring girl in Saanich crosswalk released on bail 2 weeks later
Published Wednesday, January 27, 2021 11:07AM PST Last Updated Wednesday, January 27, 2021 7:07PM PST
VICTORIA -- Two weeks after she was sentenced to prison for dangerous driving after critically injuring a young girl in a Saanich crosswalk, Tenessa Nikirk was released on bail.
Nikirk was found guilty last year for the 2017 crash that left 11-year-old Leila Bui with life-altering brain injuries. Nikirk was sentenced to two years in prison on Dec. 21.
Two weeks later, on Jan. 5, Nikirk was released from custody pending an appeal of her conviction. As a condition of her release, Nikirk is not to get behind the wheel of any vehicle, according to her lawyer, Donald McKay.
“The conviction and sentence have not been set aside but the sentence will not run until the appeal is determined,” said Dan McLaughlin, a spokesperson for the BC Prosecution Service.
“No date has been set for the hearing,” he added.
Last month, the 24-year-old Nikirk was sentenced to two years in a federal penitentiary and was prohibited from driving for three years upon her release.
Bui’s family says they’re exhausted from going through court procedures and feel that much of the process is unjust.
“There’s something wrong with this picture,” said Tuan Bui, Leila’s father. “When someone has been convicted and sentenced and (is still) able to be out there free to roam the streets... whereas my daughter has been robbed of all her freedom. It just doesn’t seem right.”
“We’ve just been tired of going through this long agonizing process and we were hoping (there) was closure in January or December. It’s just very sad to have to go through the whole thing over again.”
In her appeal, Nikirk argues the trial judge misunderstood and failed to consider pieces of evidence presented at her trial, leading to a miscarriage of justice, according to court documents.
The appeal seeks to overturn the judge’s guilty verdict against Nikirk or, failing that, to impose a conditional sentence in place of incarceration.
During her trial, the court heard that Nikirk was texting and speeding when she struck Bui in a marked crosswalk.
A video expert testified that Nikirk’s SUV was travelling in excess of 100 km/h before the crash and only came to a stop about 18 to 20 metres beyond where it struck the girl in a crosswalk at Ash Road and Torquay Drive.
Witnesses also testified that Nikirk had crossed a solid yellow line into the oncoming lane to pass vehicles before the crash.
Bui suffered what the Crown described during the trial as "catastrophic injuries," including a permanent brain injury, a broken neck and a ruptured spleen.
Nikirk's lawyer said he expects the appeal will be heard in Victoria in the fall.
Criminal Lawyer Michael Mulligan tells CTV News that if a judge granted bail, they must believe that an appeal is potentially possible.
“By virtue of the fact that the judge granted bail is that they are persuaded, at the very least, that the appeal has some merit,” said Mulligan.
“That doesn’t mean that the appeal will succeed, but it means the judge has concluded that this is not a frivolous appeal and there is some basis to argue that there was a mistake.”