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Drunk driver arrested at liquor store

A Cape Breton man who told the Parole Board of Canada that he would probably drink and drive after serving his sentence for impaired driving causing death has been charged with breaching court orders that forbid him from entering liquor stores.

Police arrested Michael Gerard Cooper on Tuesday near a Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. outlet at a Halifax mall and charged him with violating court-ordered conditions of his recent release.

Cooper's unusual case attracted attention after the parents of a teenager killed in a collision with Cooper's vehicle in 2004 asked Nova Scotia authorities to provide his name and photo to liquor stores, bars and other licensed establishments.

The 55-year-old was released from prison a week ago on conditions including a two-year ban from entering any place where alcohol is sold or consumed as the primary source of business, as well as a two-year order to abstain from buying, possessing or drinking alcohol.

Pictures and warnings were issued by the police to liquor store employees.

Mike Maloney, a spokesman for Nova Scotia Liquor, said an employee called police after allegedly spotting Cooper approaching the store.

Maloney said it's not unusual for employees to receive notices telling them to alert police about people, but it's rare to have a provincewide notification like the one involving Cooper.

"What's unique about this is the High Risk Offender Act being invoked and the sheer scale of this particular initiative," he said.

After Cooper's conviction in 2007, the Parole Board of Canada said he told them he would likely continue to drink and drive, which prompted the board to deny him an early release.

During Cooper's court appearance on Tuesday, defence lawyer John Black told the judge his client suffers from "fairly significant deficits as a result of a brain injury" he received in the 2004 collision.

Judge Barbara Beach agreed to send Cooper to the East Coast Forensic Hospital for an assessment to determine if his injury has left him incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of his actions or of knowing that they were wrong.

Outside provincial court, Black declined to elaborate on the nature of Cooper's brain injury.

Jerry Smits, the father of the young woman killed in the 2004 crash, said in an interview he will continue to pressure public agencies to post information and warn the public about Cooper.

"I don't think we'd be where we are at today if it weren't for the letters we sent to the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation," he said from his home in Sydney, N.S.

Smits said he felt vindicated by Cooper's arrest and the latest charges.

"First thing I thought of was, 'I told you so,'" he said.

Cooper's next court appearance is set for Feb. 6.

 

The Canadian Press

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