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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Mountie at centre of taser incident charged with obstruction over fatal crash

See also Prosecutors drag feet on whether to charge cop in biker's death - November 18, 2009 - Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

December 2, 2009
Josh Wingrove, Globe and Mail

Overruling recommendations by a local police force, B.C.'s Ministry of the Attorney-General won't lay impaired-driving charges after a fatal crash last year involving an RCMP officer who was also at the centre of the Robert Dziekanski case.

The ministry's criminal justice branch announced yesterday it will instead lay a single charge of attempting to obstruct justice against RCMP Corporal Benjamin Montgomery (Monty) Robinson.

The charge stems from an Oct. 25, 2008, crash in Tsawwassen, B.C., in which motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson was struck by a Jeep driven by Cpl. Robinson, who was off duty at the time, the ministry said.

After the crash, Cpl. Robinson gave his driver's licence to a witness and left the scene to carry his two children, who were in the Jeep, to the family's nearby home, defence lawyer Reg Harris said in an interview yesterday. Cpl. Robinson has said he'd consumed two beers earlier that night and, once leaving the crash scene, drank two shots of vodka at his home.

"He had volunteered that he had consumed liquor, yes," Mr. Harris said. Cpl. Robinson then returned to the scene of the crash, at which Mr. Hutchinson was pronounced dead.

The collision was investigated by Delta police, who in June recommended the Crown lay charges of impaired driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death against Cpl. Robinson.

But in a statement yesterday, the government said "available evidence does not establish to the criminal standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, that at the time of the collision Cpl. Robinson had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit, that his ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired by alcohol, or that he was operating his vehicle in a dangerous manner. ..."

Unlike other provinces where police lay charges directly, British Columbia requires the Crown to approve charges suggested by investigators.

Neil MacKenzie, a spokesman for B.C.'s criminal justice branch, was tight-lipped about what the charge of obstructing justice stems from, saying only that it was due to the "alleged actions" of Cpl. Robinson in the hours after the collision.

"I know it's connected to the motor vehicle accident," Mr. Harris added. Cpl. Robinson will plead not guilty to obstructing justice, the lawyer said.

Mr. Hutchinson's sister and mother issued a statement saying they are "relieved that a decision has finally been made to prosecute the individual who caused Orion's death."

The crash came just over a year after Cpl. Robinson gave the order to fire a taser at Mr. Dziekanski, who died shortly after.

Cpl. Robinson has been suspended with pay since the collision, RCMP Sergeant Tim Shields said. The RCMP's commanding officer in B.C. proposed suspending him without pay, but the force's Ottawa-based chief human resources officer decided against it, Sgt. Shields said.

Cpl. Robinson will remain suspended, pending an internal RCMP code of conduct investigation that will take place once his court case is concluded, Sgt. Shields said.

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