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Surrey motorist in road-rage case loses appeal of his sentence

Brent Wei Kuen Chow, 43, had argued for a discharge
Statue of Lady Justice at B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

A Surrey motorist who pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon and damaging a vehicle during a road-rage incident in Surrey on Oct. 13, 2020 has lost an appeal of his sentence.

Brent Wei Kuen Chow, 43, had argued for a discharge at sentencing on account of him not having a prior criminal record, his guilty plea, the “discrete and isolated” nature of the incident, that he was significantly injured and that having a criminal record would impact his ability to work and travel in the U.S.

The Surrey provincial court who sentenced him found that while a discharge would suit Chow’s interests it would run contrary to public interest and placed him on probation for 12 months with $2,500 in fines.

Justice Paul Riley presided over his appeal in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster and on April 9 upheld the Surrey judge’s decision.

“The incident involved a significant degree of violence, both on the part of Mr. Chow – who could fairly be described as the instigator of the incident – and on the part of the other individual involved, Mr. Adjijaj,” Riley noted in his reasons for judgment.

Both Chow and the other driver, only identified as Mr. Adjijaj, stopped their vehicles at a red light at 100 Avenue and 140 Street, parallel to one another with an empty lane between them.

“Mr. Chow showed Mr. Adjijaj his middle finger and Mr. Adjijaj responded in kind,” Riley noted. “Mr. Chow then got out of his vehicle and walked across the empty lane toward Mr. Adjijaj’s vehicle. Mr. Chow was holding a folding knife with a black handle and a serrated edge.”

Riley said Chow struck the hood of Adjijaj’s vehicle with the knife, then moved toward Adjijaj’s driver’s side.

“As Mr. Adjijaj was rolling down the driver’s side window to engage in some way, Mr. Chow smashed the window out with the butt end of the knife. Mr. Chow then struck Mr. Adjijaj in the head with the knife, causing Mr. Adjijaj to bleed profusely, with blood running down his forehead into his face.”

Adjijaj stepped out and they began “grappling” in a crosswalk, the judge said, “in full view of other people on the street, at least one of whom recorded the incident on a mobile phone.”

Chow put Adjijaj in a headlock, dropped the knife, and Adjijaj got free, hit Chow several times in the head and picked up the knife.

“Mr. Adjijaj, now holding the knife, approached Mr. Chow. The two men then came together again. Mr. Adjijaj stabbed Mr. Chow seven or eight times in rapid succession. Mr. Adjijaj then threw the knife into the bushes,” Riley noted in his reasons. “After Mr. Adjijaj threw the knife away, Mr. Chow made gestures that were interpreted by Mr. Adjijaj as an invitation to continue the fight. They clashed again and Mr. Adjijaj got Mr. Chow in a headlock.”

Police broke up the fight and arrested the pair. The court heard the entire incident – from Chow and Adjijaj stopping at the red light to their arrest – lasted one minute and 10 seconds. Both were taken to hospital, where Adjijaj was treated for a cut roughly two to three centimetres long on his forehead and a contusion to the top of his head, and Chow was treated for a stab wound to his stomach that cut his liver and required laparoscopic surgical repair, a wound to his scalp that had to be closed with staples, and stab wounds to his back and upper arm that needed suturing but didn’t result in internal injuries.

Adjijaj was sentenced separately after being found guilty of assault and received a discharge.

The Surrey judge found among aggravating circumstances in Chow’s case that he initiated the fight and introduced the weapon.

Riley, in dismissing Chow’s appeal, said there’s a public perception “which I believe is properly held” that road rage is a “very serious problem on our streets. It may have been a problem that has become worse in recent years. Vehicles are more powerful; their suspensions and steering systems are more finely tuned. These factors perhaps lead drivers to feel that they are entitled to take liberties, disregard the rules of the road, and take chances with themselves and take chances with other people’s lives and other people’s property.

“Our society is a busy one; people are stressed; our roads are more congested which leads to people feeling stressed, and leads to people again feeling the need to take shortcuts and playing fast and loose with the rules of the road,” he noted. “There are also numerous distractions which face drivers such as cell phones, iPod devices and so forth although there have been recent changes in the law intended to address some of those. All of these factors I think work towards making our streets less safe places and as a result of that we do see drivers who fly off the handle, who operate their vehicles inappropriately and in extreme cases such as this one, escalate their conduct into personal confrontations. The judge in the court below was entirely correct in saying that this incident was one deserving of censure.”

Riley said in his assessment the sentence ordered by the Surrey judge “was fit, and indeed lenient.”

As for Adjijaj, he said, his culpability “was different.” Despite having stabbed Chow multiple times, Riley noted, “he did not initiate the encounter, he was not the one who introduced the knife into the altercation, and initially at least, he may only have been repelling Mr. Chow.”

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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