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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Prosecutors drag feet on whether to charge cop in biker's death

November 18, 2009
Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

B.C. prosecutors continue dithering five months after Delta police recommended they charge Cpl. Benjamin Monty Robinson, the most senior Mountie in the Dziekanski Tasering, with killing a motorcyclist a year later while driving drunk.

The criminal justice branch took more than a year to decide not to charge the four officers in the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver Airport Oct. 14, 2007.

Now the branch is taking an inappropriately long time dealing with a horrific Oct. 25, 2008 Tsawwassen accident involving Robinson, the most experienced of the disgraced quartet.

The interminable chronology is a serious indictment of what should be an impartial process. It raises questions about the relationship between prosecutors and the officers they rely on daily in every criminal trial.

Think Stockholm syndrome.

In the high-profile Tsawwassen case, Delta police came under fire for dragging their feet after scheduled court dates were delayed and a decision on charges failed to materialize.

Finally, in June -- eight months after the fatal collision at the intersection of Gilchrist Drive and Sixth Avenue -- they submitted a report to prosecutors recommending Robinson be charged with impaired driving and dangerous driving causing death.

The crash occurred about 10:30 p.m. and Robinson gave breath samples at 11:56 p.m. and 12:16 a.m. that read .12 and .10. The legal limit is .08.

Neil MacKenzie, a spokesman for the criminal justice branch, said in June that the Crown's review should be completed within a month.

The silence since has been deafening.

Following the crash, the motor vehicle branch suspended Robinson's driver's licence for 90 days and he tried unsuccessfully to appeal it.

The brazen Mountie lamely argued in B.C. Supreme Court that an adjudicator didn't properly consider his excuse -- that he left the debris-strewn scene of the collision, had two shots of vodka, and returned. That's why he blew over the limit.

Orion Hutchinson, a 21-year-old recent graduate of BCIT looking forward to a new job, lay dying on the road and Robinson says he went home for quick drink?

Consider that Kurtis Rock, 18, was in the prisoner's dock facing eight charges three days after the Feb. 7 hit-and-run that killed Dr. Aneez Mohammed and Chanelle Morgan near the entrance to Granville Island.

Three days compared to more than a year and counting; one case involving a common citizen, the other a Mountie. Gee, I wonder why people are losing faith in the legal system?

Although the criminal justice branch decided last Dec. 12 not to charge any of the Mounties in connection with Dziekanski's death, testimony this year at the public inquiry into the incident raised serious questions about the integrity of the RCMP investigation and the veracity of the officers -- including Robinson.

There have been calls for the attorney-general to reconsider laying criminal charges against them and the government of Poland is apparently mulling a prosecution.

Inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood is writing his final report on the 40-year-old Polish immigrant's death and is expected to deliver it early next year.

But all of that has nothing to do with the death of Hutchinson.

More than a year after a none-too-complicated accident -- almost six months after even the cops said their colleague should be put on trial -- supposedly disinterested prosecutors have been unable to figure out whether to lay charges.

A criminal justice branch spokesman said Tuesday a decision will come soon.

Attorney-General Mike de Jong should be ashamed. Either his prosecutors are incompetent or so overworked they can't get the important jobs done.

There is no reason charges could be laid against Rock but no decision made in Robinson's case for this length of time.

It is a travesty for the family of a young man who died with everything before him and also for a besieged officer who deserves to be either exonerated or convicted and fired.

The RCMP suspended Robinson with pay following Hutchinson's death.

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