Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Questions raised about why prosecutors didn't charge officers in Dziekanski's death

Why did the province's criminal justice branch decide against charges in Robert Dziekanski's death without gathering the needed facts?
In the aftermath of the Braidwood inquiry, the government appointed Richard Peck as a special prosecutor to review the decision not to lay charges.
This week, Peck recommended the file be re-opened. The government news release said Peck cited “factual material that was not available to the branch at the time, including but not limited to expert video analysis and expert opinions relating to the reasonableness of the escalation and de-escalation of force.”
Note that he is not referring to newly discovered evidence or information that was beyond the reach of the criminal justice branch when it decided against charges.
Which raises the obvious question: Why did prosecutors and senior lawyers in the Attorney General's Ministry make a decision on charges without those expert opinions?
It can't be lack of funds - the RCMP had enough money to send four officers to Poland to dig into Dziekanski's background.
And it wasn't time pressure. The decision not to lay charges came 14 months after Dziekanski died.
And the branch should have known of the public interest in the case and concern that the investigation of the four officer's actions was done by the Lower Mainland's integrated homicide investigation team, which includes the RCMP.
So why didn't the branch ask independent experts to review the video and the officer's actions?
At the time, a spokesman for the branch said the force used to subdue and restrain Dziekanski was "reasonable and necessary in all the circumstances." There was no substantial likelihood of conviction on any charges, he said.
Most people who watched the video would disagree. The Braidwood inquiry did.
And at the least, most people would believe the evidence should be put before a judge or jury for a decision.
The government needs to explain two things: Why did it disagree; and why did it not seek independent expert opinions, as Braidwood did, before deciding the officers should not face charges.

1 comment:

Norman Farrell said...

These questions deserve answers. The CJB should explain their actions in a high profile situation most believe they mishandled. (Include also the related RCMP Cpl Robinson alcohol-involved case involving a young man's death in traffic.)

If confidence matters, the CJB must also tell us about policy changes made to prevent future errors of similar type. This is not an isolated case of questionable performance by the CJB. The Frank Paul case is the most egregious and the Supreme Court of Canada directed them to give account for that failure.

Additionally, the CJB is responsible for appointing the former partner of Liberal insiders as Special Prosecutor in the BC Rail corruption case that involves other Liberal insiders. To most reasonable people, that is a conflict of interest serious by itself.