COLUMN: Sentence fails public, police

The sentence handed down to former RCMP Cpl. Benjamin Monty Robinson is a disgrace.

It leaves the justice system in ill repute, and everyone involved in this obstruction of justice case should do all they can to see that the sentence is changed to more properly fit the crime – and the criminal.

A brief recap is in order. Robinson was the officer in charge of a four-man RCMP squad who Tasered Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski to death at the Vancouver Airport in October 2007. One year later in October, 2008, he was at a party in South Delta. He left and, while driving home, struck and killed motorcyclist, Orion Hutchinson.

Robinson had his children in the car and immediately left the scene of the crash with them. He went home, downed several shots of vodka, and then returned to the scene.

He was charged and convicted with obstruction of justice because he made it impossible for Delta Police to collect evidence regarding impaired driving.

It is important to note that Robinson never pleaded guilty but stretched the case out all the way. At his trial in February, court was told that he had previously told friends how to beat an impaired driving charge – by downing shots of liquor or mouthwash. This is something he learned in the course of his training as a police officer.

Robinson still faces a charge of perjury over his testimony to the Braidwood Commission that was established following the Dziekanski death. Here’s what retired judge Thomas Braidwood, in his report, said about Robinson’s actions: “The initial claims by all four officers that they wrestled Mr. Dziekanski to the ground were untrue. In my view, they were deliberate misrepresentations, made for the purpose of justifying their actions.”

On Friday, July 27, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Janice Dillon sentenced Robinson to a 12-month conditional sentence on the obstruction of justice charge. One month is to be served under house arrest. He received no jail time.

Robinson did not resign from the RCMP until July 20, the day his sentencing hearing began. He is to receive an RCMP pension, recognizing all his years in the force, including the past four years, where he has been paid while not working.

Dillon’s sentence completely glossed over the fact that Robinson was an RCMP officer. As such, any conviction on an obstruction of justice charge is far more serious than in other circumstances.

She also said he deserved a lighter sentence because he is of native extraction, a statement that has drawn scorn from numerous aboriginal leaders. They say Robinson deserved no such leniency.

Robinson needs to spend at least a short time in jail. As a former RCMP member, he was charged with upholding the system of law, policing and justice which is essential, if our country is to remain a civil society and if people are to be encouraged to obey the law.

The judge missed all that. She failed in her duty to consider these factors in sentencing.

If this sentence stands, it will be cited as precedent in future cases and other police officers who break the law will be given light sentences. The Crown must appeal this sentence. Robinson cannot be allowed to serve just one month of house arrest for a serious crime that took the life of a young man.

Protectors of the justice system – and there are many – are likely hoping this will be forgotten, as in late July and August most people are in vacation mode. They must be reminded by citizens that this sentence is completely unacceptable.

The sentence must be appealed, not just for the sake of the Hutchinson family, but for the future well-being of our society. We must ensure that police officers are not able to get away with such serious offences.

If they are, there is no incentive for any citizen to obey the law and respect police officers’ enforcement of the law.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.

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