November 8, 2017

Court Sends Strong Message Regarding Bus Operator Assaults

New Westminster – A Provincial Court Judge has sent a strong message to those who would assault a bus operator in his sentencing of a 22 year old Port Moody woman.

On June 22, 2016, at 5:15 pm, a 97 B-Line Coast Mountain bus was heading northbound on North Road at Austin Avenue in Coquitlam. A young woman, who appeared to be intoxicated, boarded that bus at the Lougheed Station bus loop and began swearing repeatedly. The bus operator asked her to stop swearing and advised her that if she continued, she would have to leave the bus.

The woman continued swearing and was told to get off the bus at the stop just north of Austin Avenue. As she left the bus, she spat in the face of the operator and left the area in a taxi. Metro Vancouver Transit Police were advised and initiated an investigation.

The woman was identified as a result of a police incident she was involved in, earlier in the day. Transit Police conducted a thorough investigation and submitted a detailed and compelling Report to Crown Counsel, recommending a charge of Assault, which was approved by Crown Counsel.

In February of this year, the suspect appeared in court and was convicted at trial of one count of Assault. Convicted was Lakota Morningstar KAKAKAWAY, 22 years.

On November 1, 2017, KAKAKAWAY appeared in court again for sentencing. She was sentenced to 14 days in jail followed by 12 months’ probation that includes conditions of no contact with her victim, and not to be found in any vehicle operated by Coast Mountain Bus Company.

In his decision, the judge articulated all aggravating and mitigating circumstances in the case including the vulnerability of public transport operators, the nature of the assault – with spitting described as an act of disrespect and one posing serious danger of transmitting serious disease through saliva and the fact that the accused did not plead guilty, requiring a trial. He also emphasized the role of the court system in sending a strong message to the public that acts of violence against transit operators are unacceptable.

Chief Doug LePard states “It is gratifying to see the recognition from the courts regarding the serious nature of assaults on bus operators. While this young woman had a history of negative police contacts, she did not have a previous criminal record. This is an extraordinary outcome for a first offence and sends a strong message to offenders and front-line transit staff.” There have been 79 reported incidents of assault on bus operators to date, in 2017.

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