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Thursday, July 16, 2009

RCMP's lawyer quits Taser inquiry

July 16, 2009
CBC News

A lawyer who failed to disclose a controversial email has quietly resigned as the Mounties' legal counsel at the inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's death, after RCMP in B.C. jolted him with a Taser stun gun in 2007.

Helen Roberts withdrew from the Vancouver-based Braidwood inquiry in June and was replaced by another lawyer from the federal Department of Justice.

The change came after Roberts made a tearful apology at the inquiry for failing to disclose an RCMP email that suggested the four Mounties who responded to a call to Vancouver International Airport made plans to stun Dziekanski with a Taser before they saw him.

Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant, died in the airport's arrivals lounge in October 2007 after being stunned.

Roberts had said the failure to disclose the email was an accidental oversight.

Before the email was revealed, the four officers had stated under oath that they had not discussed using the stun gun before arriving at the airport.

The email, from RCMP Chief Supt. Dick Bent to assistant commissioner Al McIntyre, said that: "Finally, spoke to Wayne and he indicated that the members did not articulate that they saw the symptoms of excited delirium, but instead had discussed the response en route and decided that if he did not comply that they would go to CEW."

The "Wayne" mentioned in the email is Supt. Wayne Rideout, then head of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team investigating Dziekanski's death. CEW refers to a conducted energy weapon, the RCMP name for a Taser-type weapon.

Roberts gave a tearful apology, saying it was simply an accidental oversight.

Her admission brought new suspicions of a coverup and caused a costly three-month delay to the inquiry on the day it was to begin winding down.

The commission had been scheduled to begin hearing closing arguments on June 19, but after learning of the email, commissioner Thomas Braidwood announced the inquiry would resume on Sept. 22 to allow commission lawyers time to review the email and conduct an investigation.

Art Vertlieb, the inquiry lawyer, said Roberts is only partly responsible for the embarrassment she suffered.

"The simple fact is the RCMP should have produced that document months and months before," he said.

Although Roberts had spent more than a year on the inquiry, Vertlieb said her replacement should be able to catch up by the time the inquiry resumes.

A request to the Department of Justice for an interview with Roberts went unanswered. In a written statement the department said Roberts asked to withdraw from the inquiry. In a separate statement the RCMP said it had no role in her departure.

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