Judge delivers guilty verdict in trial of RCMP officer involved in fatal Tsawwassen collision
RCMP Corporal Benjamin "Monty" Robinson has been found guilty of obstructing justice in connection with a road accident that claimed the life of a young Tsawwassen motorcyclist.
Justice Janice Dillon handed down her decision in New Westminster Supreme Court this morning (March 23).
In her reasons for judgement, Dillon said the Crown proved beyond a reasonable doubt Robinson's actions after the collision were intended to thwart a proper police investigation. She said a responsible, veteran, off-duty police officer in the same situation as Robinson would have acted differently.
Robinson was off duty when his Jeep collided with 21-year-old Orion Hutchinson's motorcycle at the intersection of Sixth Ave. and Gilchrist Dr. on Oct. 25, 2008.
Following the accident, Robinson gave his driver's licence to a bystander and left the scene to walk his two children home. Upon his return, he told police he had downed two shots of vodka at home to calm his nerves.
Dillon concluded Robinson knew he minimized the the amount of beer he had consumed at a Halloween party prior to the crash; he initially told police he had a couple of beers, and later admitted to drinking five.
Dillon said Robinson's actions were "willfully designed" to set up a drinking and driving defense he had learned in police training.
She reviewed two historical cases of post-accident drinking.
During the eight-day trial, which concluded Feb. 22, defense witness Dr. Paul Sobey testified Robinson had "severe" alcohol dependency at the time of the collision and his use of alcohol after the accident was consistent with alcohol dependency.
But Dillon said she found Dr. Sobey's medical evaluation unreliable and gave his report "little weight" in her conclusions.
The final verdict was met with an outpouring of emotion from Hutchinson's family.
"This doesn't bring my son back, but there is definitely a sense of satisfaction just hearing that very strongly worded word 'guilty,'" Orion's mother Judith told media after the verdict was handed down. "At this point we can go forward knowing that he will be held accountable, at least somewhat, for his actions, which hitherto has not been the case.
"If he had walked away and the verdict had been not guilty, in terms of just emotional survival, I don't know if I could keep going," she added.
Judith would not comment on her hopes for the sentencing, but said she would like to see Robinson stripped of his RCMP badge.
"The RCMP should immediately suspend him without pay and then terminate him, and do an internal investigation of their own—which should have been done two years ago."
Crown prosecutor Kris Pechet said he is hopeful the conviction gives some comfort to the Hutchinson family. He would not comment on sentencing.
"The Crown position on sentence is not yet formulated," he told media.
Pechet added there is a potential for jail time, and the maximum penalty the law allows for an obstruction of justice conviction is 10 years.
But he will have to review the judge's decision before taking a position.
"The factors will include, of course, the fact that he is a police officer and in some respects in a position of trust," Pechet said.
A sentencing date will be scheduled on April 4.