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Thursday, June 18, 2009

'Misconduct' findings should be rarely used: ex B.C. AG

June 18, 2009

VANCOUVER — A former British Columbia attorney general says public inquiries like the one probing Robert Dziekanski’s death should rarely, if ever, make findings of misconduct.

The inquiry begins hearing final submissions on Friday, and several lawyers will be asking the commissioner to assign blame against the officers who repeatedly stunned Dziekanski with a Taser.

The officers challenged Commissioner Thomas Braidwood’s authority to make such findings, but their case was rejected by a B.C. Supreme Court judge earlier this week.

Vancouver lawyer Geoff Plant, who was B.C. attorney general from 2001 to 2005, says inquiries don’t offer witnesses the same legal rights and protections as criminal or civil trials.

He says because witnesses can be compelled to testify in hearings where the standards of evidence are lower than in formal trials, commissioners should avoid alleging misconduct unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Plant says even though findings of misconduct carry no legal weight, they can destroy reputations and ruin careers.

Lawyers for Dziekanski’s mother and the Polish government have levelled several allegations against the officers and will be asking the commissioner to conclude the officers acted improperly the night they confronted Dziekanski at Vancouver’s airport.

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