(Published in 24 Hours July 30, 2013)

Time to move on in Dziekanski Tasering death case


   By Leo Knight




On Monday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Mark McEwan delivered his verdict in the perjury trial of young RCMP Const. Bill Bentley. Not guilty, he said, a ruling that set off immediate recriminations.

Radio talk shows filled up with the emotional reactions of people who have been whipped into a frenzy by the media ever since the tragic death of Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski in October 2007. Fortunately, McEwan focused on the law as it pertains to an allegation of perjury and not on raw emotions.

Perjury is what is known in law as a “specific intent” offence. That means to prove the charge, the Crown must show the accused deliberately lied under oath in order to mislead. And this was the salient problem the Crown had in trying to prove perjury against Bentley. Crown will have the same problem against the remaining three officers awaiting trial for the same charges.

In his ruling, McEwan said, "The Crown has not shown that in any particular (allegation), Mr. Bentley made a false statement knowing it to be false and with intent to mislead the inquiry. The Crown has advanced a suspicion based largely on circumstantial evidence."

With that statement he effectively put an end to the other three prosecutions, despite the response from Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie following the decision. “Each of these cases is determined on its own specific facts,” MacKenzie said. “I don’t want to speculate about what the effect of this decision may be other than to say that obviously the cases contain some interrelated facts.”

Well, let me speculate for him. The cases are all related. They arise out of the same statements made by the officers who attended YVR on that fateful night during their subsequent testimony at the Braidwood inquiry. The salient facts in the testimony are essentially the same, with minor discrepancies. There is nothing to suggest perjury or collusion.

If five people see the same event, there will inevitably be minor variations in their statements. Any police officer or lawyer will tell you that. The court took judicial notice of this reality.

The media fuelled the public’s desire for a scalp in this case. The Crown acquiesced, charging and now failing to secure a conviction against an RCMP officer who had a little more than a year’s service at the time.

Enough already. Dziekanski is dead in tragic circumstances. The police responded according to their training by using a Taser, a device that was considered to be non-lethal. The RCMP and police departments across the country have since changed their training.

It’s time to move on.


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