VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A bus driver viciously assaulted by a young man while on the job last year says he is stunned and disappointed his attacker has been handed no jail time.

“I’ve had 14 months of house arrest.  That’s four months shy of what he gets,” says Coast Mountain Bus driver Charles Dixon after a judge sentenced 22-year old Del Louie to an 18 months of house arrest and two years of probation after he pleaded guilty to attacking Dixon in February 2011.

In handing down her sentence, Vancouver Provincial Court Judge Karen Walker noted Dixon suffered a concussion, broken orbital bones and brain damage after Louie sucker-punched at the Edmonds Station in Burnaby.  Louie boarded on the back of the house and hit Dixon after he asked him to get off and board from the front like the rest of the passengers.

Walker says she considered Louie’s First Nations heritage in sentencing, as higher courts have advised.
She says Louie came from a tough background of violence, neglect suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

But she also noted Louie resisted police and spat on a paramedic after he was arrested following the assault on Dixon.

She ordered him to stay at a wellness centre, avoid alcohol and drugs, complete counseling and 200 hours of community service, warning if he breached his conditions he would appear before her again and likely go to jail.

She also ordered him to ride a bus only if completely sober and carrying a valid fare.

The Crown had asked Louie serve nine to 12 months in jail while the defense argued for a conditional sentence.

Outside court, Dixon, his nose bandaged and eye blackened after yet another surgery, cried and denounced Louie’s lack of jail time.

“Three or four or six months in jail wouldn’t have hurt, because that would have sent a message to the general public, guess what: you don’t board any of our buses and do what they’ve done to me,” he says.

“Look at me.  There’s nothing wrong with Del Louie’s face.  He doesn’t have a plate and four screws in his face, he doesn’t have a concussion…and cognitive issues that will be with me the rest of my life,” he choked.

Dixon says he doesn’t think the judge should have considered Louie’s First Nations background when sentencing him.  

“He knew exactly how to throw one hell of a good punch at my right cheek to break my orbital bone in  two places.  I don’t care what ancestry he’s from.”

Dixon adds he expects Louie to be back in front of a judge one day, while he says he may go back to work within a few weeks.

Dixon has been attacked 14 times over his 25 year career, in what has become an increasingly common occupational hazard for drivers.

Canadian Auto Workers Local 111, the union representing bus drivers, says there have been more than 1,000 assaults on drivers in the past decade, with a 21 per cent rise in 2011 from the year before

Dixon’s fellow bus drivers who packed the courtroom scoffed at the sentence.

“It’s completely unsafe,” says driver Linda Burns.

“[The fear] just slowly eats away at you until you’re dead inside and you can’t stand people, and then people wonder why we’re not happy,” she says.  “I think this guy…got sentenced to a wellness centre.  Charlie Dixon should be so lucky.”

“We need fare enforcement, we need security at every terminus in the system, because that’s where a lot of this stuff takes place,” she adds, adding security staff are rarely on buses.

Peter Arkell with Coast Mountain Bus Company says they’re doing what they can to improve security and the company was hoping for a stronger sentence.

“Cameras equipped on board our vehicles, the majority of our fleet is equipped.  It’s been quite successful in ID-ing individuals,” he says, adding security officers do ride buses.

CAW Local 111 President Don MacLeod says justice has not been served by Louie’s sentence.

“I think what the judge should have taken into account is the multiple offences here that Del Louie had committed and added jail time as a first step, and then build on the house arrest and the probation,” he says.

MacLeod wants a mandatory minimum sentence for anyone convicted of assaulting a bus driver.