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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tasered man's mother threatens legal action after delay in inquiry

October 28, 2008
IAN BAILEY, Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER — Robert Dziekanski's mother, frustrated at delays in an inquest into the death of her son after he was tasered last year, is considering legal action against the Mounties who used the device and others linked to the matter, her lawyer says.

Walter Kosteckyj, speaking for Zofia Cisowski, raised the possibility yesterday after news that the Braidwood inquiry is being delayed for the second time.

"If this thing is delayed much further, there are civil remedies available," he said, indicating the officers involved, Vancouver airport and other "various entities" might be targeted.

"[Ms. Cisowski] hopes the inquiry will go ahead, but if it's clear it won't proceed, we'll contemplate other options," he said.

The probe into Mr. Dziekanski's death at Vancouver International Airport last October was scheduled to resume this month, but was delayed until Nov. 12. Now it is scheduled to resume Jan. 19 and sit for at least six weeks.

Commission counsel Art Vertleib says the Crown is awaiting additional information from the RCMP before deciding whether to charge the officers involved in the fatal confrontation with Mr. Dziekanski, who became agitated after waiting for several hours at the international arrivals area of the airport. He could not speak English. The question of charges, he said, is delaying the inquiry.

Retired B.C. appeal court judge Thomas Braidwood was appointed in February by B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal to conduct a two-phase inquiry on taser use. As well as looking into the death of Mr. Dziekanski, Mr. Braidwood first examined the use of tasers by police, but the report on that inquiry is still being written.

A decision on whether police will be charged in the case was expected in early October, but has been delayed, according to a commission statement.

Mr. Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant, was supposed to meet his mother, a Kamloops resident, at the airport, after taking his first-ever airplane trip to Canada to begin a new life in this country.

The confrontation with police was caught by a bystander's video-recording device, and widely broadcast around the world, raising questions about police use of tasers.

"We respect the concerns of the Crown, but we just hope the RCMP and the Crown can get together and get this done," Mr. Vertleib said in an interview yesterday, noting he is "frustrated" about the situation.

The commission has been unable to get access to RCMP files, preventing them from determining which witnesses have been interviewed and whether they would be useful to the process, Mr. Vertleib said.

RCMP spokesman Sergeant Tim Shields said the force is "fully co-operating" with the inquiry, and submitted a full investigative report on the case months ago.

"I am led to believe they are awaiting one doctor's report that has not been received," he said.

He said the RCMP are reluctant to release additional material to the commission before a decision is made on charges. The concern is that it might become public, compromising the officers' right to a fair trial.

He said the situation has been "extremely difficult" for the officers who dealt with Mr. Dziekanski, and are now awaiting a decision on charges.

Crown spokesman Stan Lowe, in a voicemail message responding to a call for comment, said prosecutors are awaiting a final item and will "make a decision quickly" on charges once it is received.

Mr. Kosteckyj said his client is exasperated.

"She's just basically beside herself. She's really losing faith in the system," he said. "She's come to the conclusion that these delays are being brought about so people will forget about [the case]."

He noted she supports the laying of charges against the officers because she feels it was "unconscionable" for officers to use conducted-energy weapons against her son when he was asking for help.

An RCMP report suggests officers are not receiving special training for using tasers in jailhouse settings despite the fact that one in every 10 people hit with an RCMP stun gun last year was behind bars. The report, dated Aug. 25, recommends that cellblock scenarios be included in RCMP training sessions with the devices.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you want these officers to kill themselves like the guy in NTC did. I hipe the RCMP is supporting these guys more than the media. I would hate to see an officer take his own life again