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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Braidwood inquiry into Taser death will go ahead whether RCMP ready or not

November 4, 2008
David Hogben, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - The retired judge investigating the use of Tasers in B.C. said Tuesday he will brook no further delays and is preparing to subpoena RCMP officers to force them to testify.

The second part of Thomas Braidwood's inquiry - into the events surrounding the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport - has twice been delayed because RCMP officers won't testify before they know whether they face any charges in the incident.

A Crown decision on charges has not been made because the RCMP has not provided information requested by prosecutors.

Braidwood said he won't wait any longer.

"Although we are still hoping that the Crown's decision will be made soon, the commission's lawyers are in the process of preparing subpoenas for the officers involved and for other potential witnesses linked to the RCMP's investigation of Mr. Dziekanski's death," Braidwood said in a statement.

The inquiry is scheduled to resume Jan. 19.

Walter Kosteckyj, the lawyer representing Dziekanski's family, said he was pleased by Braidwood's announcement but expected more attempts to delay the inquiry. "It would not surprise me that there would be some challenges to the subpoenas," Kosteckyj said in an interview.

Braidwood's statement said: "The commission's mandate is to provide Mr. Dziekanski's family and the public with a complete record of the circumstances of his death. We need to get on with that task." He said the inquiry has also been delayed because of "the reluctance or inability of some law enforcement agencies to provide the commission's researchers with the required materials or data in a timely manner."

Kosteckyj said the public's perceptions of the RCMP and the justice system have suffered because of the delays. "The fact that it has gotten to this is certainly not positive for the way people perceive the justice system," he said.

Commission counsel Art Vertlieb said he respects the position of the RCMP's lawyers, but that it is important the commission moves forward. "It's certainly necessary when it comes to the airport, the RCMP and Tasers: people are concerned. I really believe people are very concerned," Vertlieb said.

Crown prosecutors said last week they were still waiting for the RCMP to forward material before they can decide whether criminal charges should be laid against any or all of the RCMP officers present when Dziekanski was Tasered. He died shortly after.

The RCMP did not respond to requests for an interview Tuesday.

In another Taser-related death, the family of a man who died after Calgary police used a Taser on him last weekend say police shouldn't be using the controversial weapon. Gordon Walker Bowe, 30, of Castlegar, was the second person to die after being Tasered by police in Alberta in less than a week.

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