Saturday, September 04, 1999

Driver in fatal crash given absolute discharge

Daniel Sieberg
The Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - A B.C. Supreme Court justice ruled yesterday that an American woman, who was earlier found not criminally responsible for the death of two Canadian teenagers, be given an absolute discharge without any conditions attached.

Julia Campagna, 28, was allowed to leave the B.C. Supreme Court building in New Westminster under her own volition after Justice Thimersingh M. Singh found that she does not pose a significant risk to the public.

Ms. Campagna had been charged with driving dangerously and causing the deaths of Kimberly Brooks, 18, and Monique Ishikawa, 19, on May 30, 1998, after the car she was driving smashed into the two women's car near the Peace Arch border crossing, causing a fiery explosion.

Both women died instantly.

Ms. Campagna had been taking an over-the-counter hunger depressant drug called Xenedrine, which is available in the U.S., and she was suffering delusional withdrawal symptoms at the time of the accident, it was determined.

As a result, the court found her to be mentally unstable.

In his decision yesterday, Judge Singh cited a Supreme Court ruling from June which states that a person deemed not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder must be given the "least onerous and least restrictive" options with regards to their liberty, based on all the evidence provided.

Judge Singh could have ruled as the Crown had argued and imposed conditions on her release, such as required visits to her psychiatrist for a period of 18 to 24 months. Or he could have asked for Ms. Campagna to be detained in custody in a hospital.

But for Judge Singh to grant these conditions, he first had to find the accused to be a significant risk to society.

Ms. Campagna had been using Xenedrine to attempt weight loss while she trained for the Boston marathon before the crash.

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