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Driver found guilty of all counts in London, Ont., crash that killed 8-year-old girl guide and injured 7

The 79-year-old driver of a car that ran into a troop of girl guides in 2021, killing an eight-year-old girl and injuring others, on Friday was found guilty of criminal negligence causing death and seven counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

Jurors announced the verdict for Petronella McNorgan on Friday morning after two days of deliberations. 

When the decision was read, McNorgan remained stoic. Some people in the gallery gasped; others wept and embraced. 

Crown prosecutors argued throughout the three-week trial that McNorgan could have done more to bring her speeding car under control. They successfully argued it was not an accident that McMorgan’s Honda CRV hit the troop and she could have stopped the crash. 

Lawyer Phillip Millar said his client Petronella McNorgan will appeal her conviction.
Lawyer Phillip Millar said his client, McNorgan, will appeal her conviction. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

A publication ban is in place to protect the identity of the victims, including the eight-year-old girl who was killed and the seven in the group who were injured. 

‘There’s no winner and no loser’

Outside the courthouse, McNorgan’s lawyer, Phillip Millar, said he believes there are grounds for an appeal, adding the charge she was convicted of was never intended to apply in collisions that are, in his words, the result of an accident. 

The jury had the option of convicting McNorgan on lesser charges of dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm. 

“There’s no winner and no loser in a tragedy like this. There’s a jury making a decision and we have to accept their decision,” said Millar. “A type of law is being squeezed into a hole it’s not supposed to be. It was designed for people who are deliberately reckless and not accidental.” 

Kelli Norton was at the head of the group of guides walking together that night.

She testified earlier in the trial and attended each day. Like many supporters of the victims, she wore a blue Girl Guides pin to court. 

Norton thanked everyone who rushed to the roadside to help that night, an evening that began as a short walk to make snow owls at a nearby park. 

“It was supposed to be a great night,” she said. “We’d been waiting for snow for a while and we had great packing snow. Everyone was happy. We were singing songs. Our hope had been to give back to the community that night. No one could have predicted this.”

What the jury heard

During the trial, court heard McNorgan drove her Honda CRV westbound through the intersection of Wonderland Road and Riverside Drive at high speed on the evening of Nov. 30, 2021. 

As McNorgan’s car travelled through the intersection, reaching speeds of 121 km/h, she clipped the back bumper of a Jeep stopped at the red light. From there, her car continued through the intersection, struck a light pole, and slammed into a group of Girl Guides and their chaperones as they walked on a sidewalk.

The car eventually came to a stop in the parking lot of a park on the south side of Riverside Drive, more than 300 metres away from the initial collision. 

Expert witnesses — including an OPP mechanic, London police officers and an engineer from Honda — all testified the car’s brakes and accelerator were in good working order at the time of the collision. In fact, the car had been serviced at a dealership earlier that day and had driven normally in the hours before the collision.

McNorgan, a retired teacher, testified in her own defence that she had pressed the brake pedal after the initial crash but the car failed to stop and continued to speed up. 

Judge Pamela Hebner presided over the trial, which was attended by many family and girl guide members. 

Petronella McNorgan's car came to rest on the south side of Riverside Drive. The 79-year-old is charged with criminal negligence causing death and seven counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
McNorgan’s Honda CRV came to rest on the south side of Riverside Drive after it went through an intersection at high speed the evening of Nov. 30, 2021. (London Police Service)

Criminal negligence applies to actions or omissions that display “a wanton or reckless disregard for the lives and safety of others.” 

McNorgan is scheduled to return to court on May 21 to set a date for sentencing, which will likely happen in July. 

This article is from from cbc.ca (CBC NEWS CANADA)

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