Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver, B.C. (Postmedia News) – B.C. Supreme Court Justice Janice Dillon’s refusal to jail disgraced former RCMP Cpl. Benjamin Monty Robinson is a travesty.
In a decision that triggered immediate controversy Friday, Justice Dillon said his aboriginal heritage meant Robinson didn’t have to go to prison for obstructing justice after the fatal Oct. 2008 collision with a young motorcyclist.
She sentenced him to one month’s house arrest, another 11 months with a 9 p.m. curfew and told him to pay a $1,000 victim surcharge fee.
Oh, she also ordered him to write an apology to the family of Orion Hutchinson, the 21-year-old from Tsawwassen who lay dead or dying while Robinson, already buzzing on five beers, nipped home to drop off the kids and down a couple of vodka shooters.
It was an insult, and as they left the New Westminster courtroom, the family’s pain spilled onto the street.
“You’re not out for blood, you just want some kind of justice,” Judith Hutchinson fumed.
“Curfew? It’s basically like a kid being grounded. Any jail time would have been better . . . He got off so lightly.”
She said it was a slap in the face.
“I’m outraged,” she practically spat, adding the family doesn’t want Robinson’s condolences made “with an arm twisted behind his back.”
It was heartbreaking.
Twitter and radio call-in shows were quickly filled with condemnation from people who thought the judge was out of touch with community values, or worse.
We’re jailing young people for smashing windows during the Vancouver riot, yet Justice Dillon bends over backwards to give this ex-Mountie house arrest?
The maximum penalty for obstructing justice is 10 years behind bars and the federal Tories have us jailing harmless pot growers.
This was a police officer — a man sworn to uphold the law, a man intimate with the ways drunk drivers evade responsibility.
A man, as Justice Dillon said, who used his knowledge and experience to obfuscate and mask his culpability in a horrendous accident.
This is holding police officers to a higher standard?
These circumstances demanded a much more serious response from the bench. The Crown suggested at least three months in jail, which was probably about right.
Instead, Dillon gave us sophistry: He’s an alcoholic, aboriginal, first-time offender suffering from post-traumatic stress and, besides, putting a former police officer in jail means protective custody.
That didn’t wash.
He was a seasoned RCMP officer and if we can keep gangsters in solitary for months awaiting trial, it’s not much of a hardship for corrections to accommodate a single ex-cop for a month or so given our early release provisions.
Furthermore, her reasoning misconstrued Parliament’s intent when it amended the Criminal Code to provide more justice for first nations offenders.
Lawmakers weren’t out to give a racial discount on sentencing.
The restorative goals of that law should not apply here — Robinson, a member of the prosperous Osoyoos band, was not the victim of systemic racism or neglect. He was not disenfranchised, marginalized, impoverished, oppressed or disadvantaged.
Justice Dillon gave someone a break who didn’t deserve it.
Robinson discredited police officers at a time when they were under extreme scrutiny and he tarnished the iconic national force with his conduct.
The 42-year-old father of three was an RCMP corporal and he should have been treated like one, not given a get-out-of-jail-free pass because of a legal loophole.
Robinson did not acknowledge his guilt, apologize or show any remorse during the proceedings. It took until last week for him to do the right thing and resign as a Mountie.
In her judgment, Justice Dillon should have emphasized not his rehabilitation but rather deterrence, denunciation and the promotion of responsibility.
Her decision sends the wrong message to drunk drivers, to bent police officers and to those who think judges are too soft on crime.
Robinson still faces perjury charges over his testimony about the October 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski after he was repeatedly Tasered and subdued by Robinson and three other Mounties at the airport.
Walking away from court trailing reporters, his lawyer David Crossin offered: “Well, he’s prepared to take his medicine and he’s taking it.”
What a crock. Be home by 9 now, Monty!