Man who fled scene after runaway stolen trailer killed cyclist in Brampton sentenced to 6 years

Paul De Pledge’s parents, siblings, and cousins left the Brampton courthouse disappointed and upset after a judge sentenced Pritpal Lehl, the man found guilty of criminal negligence causing de Pledge’s death and failing to remain at the scene of the accident, to six years in prison.

Some wiped away tears while De Pledge’s eldest brother struggled to express his frustration. “I can’t articulate it right now, I wish I could.”

Paul De Pledge, a forklift operator, was riding to work at 6 a.m. on August 1, 2018 when he was struck by a large open-air trailer that had become disconnected from the white cargo van being driven by Lehl along Summerlea Road and Walker Drive in Brampton.

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Video surveillance shown at trial captured the cyclist being dragged about 60 feet across the lawn of an industrial building, only coming to a stop when the trailer slammed into the building. Lehl drove away. Two hours later, that De Pledge, 39, was found dead by the owner of the business as he arrived at work. Lehl’s van was recovered that morning about six kilometres away. Lehl was arrested and charged three months later.

Read more: Crown suggests 8-10 year sentence for driver of stolen trailer that killed Brampton cyclist

Justice David E. Harris said the impact of the crime on De Pledge’s family and the community has been far reaching, citing the ten victim impact statements that were submitted. “The sorrow and pain felt by the family conveyed. It’s impossible to adequately describe the anguish they feel,” said Harris.

“Mr. De Pledge was an avid cyclist but he had no chance against the harrowing destructive path of the trailer. No cyclist would have,” Harris told the court.

While Lehl, who had a suspended license, was acquitted of possession of property obtained by crime in relation to the van, the judge told the court, “I’m convinced the theft (of the trailer) he was committing was the reason he was so rushed and didn’t take the necessary precautions in attaching the trailer. This haste and carelessness was a causal factor in the offence and was a strong aggravating factor,” said Harris.

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Read more: Judge finds man guilty of hit-and-run, criminal negligence in Brampton cyclist death

In relation to failing to remain, Harris said Lehl was aware of the catastrophic consequences of the trailer hitting De Pledge but nonetheless sped up and drove away, knowing he would likely have been charged with stealing the trailer.

“A key aggravating factor is that he would have known that the cyclist needed urgent attention and could have saved him. While a pathology report says Mr. De Pledge died immediately after the trailer struck him, he (Lehl) would not have known that. This lack of responsibility rachets up the gravity of the offence and the moral blameworthiness,” Harris added.

Harris said a second aggravating factor is that Lehl tried to conceal his culpability. After the hit-and-run, surveillance video showed Lehl abandoning the van before he and his girlfriend drove off on a motorcycle, calling it a “cowardly attempt to avoid detection.”

Harris told Lehl has was being given a three-and-a-half year sentence for criminal negligence causing death to be served consecutively with a two-and-a-half year sentence for failing to remain.

Lehl was also given two 90-day sentences after being convicted of two counts of failing to comply with bail conditions he was on at the time of the offence. Lehl had a curfew and had no-contact conditions with his ex-girlfriend.

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Crown prosecutor Amy Mountjoy asked for a sentence of between eight to ten years in prison, citing Lehl’s significant, though dated, criminal record, including a number of breaches that showed disrespect for the criminal justice system and court orders.

Harris gave Lehl 1.5 year credit for the 1067 days spent in pre-trial custody and 45 days credit for 12 months he spent on house arrest. That leaves the now 44 years old, with one year and one month left on his sentence.

Lehl who appeared roughly one hundred pounds heavier than he did at the start of the trial in July 2021, when he was out on bail. Court heard Lehl was re-arrested in March 2022, after allegedly breaching a condition of his release. That charge is still before the courts.

“The family is hurt. We understand that yes, he is in jail and that loss of life is not worth one year, one month,” De Pledge’s sister-in-law Keyden Gordon said expressing shock that Lehl was given enhanced credit for the time he spent out on bail, especially given he breached conditions of his release.

Read more: Man, woman charged in death of cyclist after Brampton hit-and-run

“Being credited for time served while he’s at home. I’m astonished at this,” said De Pledge’s brother, Mark.

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The court heard that Lehl, a citizen of India, is facing deportation upon the completion of his sentence. He was also given a ten-year driving prohibition and a DNA order.

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