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Marco Muzzo, right, arrives with family at the court house for his sentencing hearing in Newmarket, Ont., on February 23, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Marco Muzzo killed three young children and their grandfather when he violently struck the side of the family's car with his own vehicle in an accident north of Toronto. He did not even realize he was drunk when he got into his car at Pearson Airport, coming from a bachelor party in Florida, though he was three times over the legal limit, couldn't stand up and wet himself.

The children's mother has lost all her children.

The maximum sentence for the crime of impaired driving causing death is imprisonment for life, but such a sentence for this offence is extremely rare. Justice Michelle Fuerst of the Ontario Superior Court imposed a sentence of 10 years in jail.

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Mr. Muzzo will be able to apply for day parole in three years, though he will not be able to drive for 12 years even after he leaves jail – a great inconvenience in the outer suburbs of Toronto.

Quite probably, he will receive parole in due course, and the mother of the children will justifiably feel the result is terribly disproportionate to her irrecoverable losses. At a parole hearing, she will be able to express her very real tragedy.

Mr. Muzzo, however, is very unlikely to reoffend; this dreadful experience will hardly be forgotten. We have no reason to doubt that he is appalled at himself, as he says he is. He has had a number of speeding convictions and quite a few other driving infractions, but nothing remotely like this.

There is little reason to suppose that Mr. Muzzo will turn into a drunk-driving recidivist, let alone become a hardened criminal – though such people do exist.

If usually law-abiding citizens were not allowed to return at some point to civil society, there would not be much incentive for wrongdoers to restrain themselves.

In other words, a deterrent must be a deterrent, to prevent ordinary people from committing offences, not to condemn them for the rest of their days.

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