A former RCMP officer who used his police training to avoid a drunk driving charge following a fatal crash in Tsawwassen won't serve any jail time.
Benjamin "Monty" Robinson was handed a 12-month conditional sentence in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster Friday for the his actions following the Oct. 25, 2008 accident that claimed the life of 21-year-old motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson.
Robinson, 42, had earlier been found guilty of obstruction of justice for deliberating trying to mislead a police investigation after the evening collision between his jeep and Hutchinson's motorcycle at the corner of 6th Avenue and Gilchrist Drive.
Following the accident, Robinson, who was coming home from a party and was off duty, left the scene with his children, leaving his driver's licence with a bystander. He walked to his home a couple of blocks away. After settling his children into bed, he drank two shots of vodka before returning to the scene of the crash.
Delta police recommended Robinson, who also tried misleading police when answering how much beer he consumed at the party, be charged with impaired driving causing death. The Crown decided not to proceed with that charge.
During the trial, Robinson told the court he drank the vodka without thinking because it gave him comfort. An addictions specialist testified that in 2008 Robinson was an alcoholic and his actions were consistent with someone suffering from alcohol dependence.
Justice Janice Dillon placed little weight on the expert's conclusions and said she did not find Robinson's explanation credible. She said she found Robinson's actions deliberate, calculated, and convicted him of obstruction of justice.
On Friday, Dillon noted Robinson used his police training in an effort to thwart the investigation. She admonished him for diminishing the reputation of the RCMP and fellow officers during a time when the force was already under scrutiny.
"Such a crime seriously undermines public confidence in police," she said.
Dillon also pointed out his conduct was made all the worse by leaving the victim dying on the street without trying to assist.
The judge noted the punishment should be more severe when committed by a police officer who is entrusted to serve and protect, however, she also said less restrictive sanctions should also be considered, given mitigating circumstances. Those include his aboriginal ancestry, family history of alcoholism and that he experienced several traumatic events while with the force including the infamous 2007 Tasering death at YVR.
The judge also noted another factor to consider is that Robinson as a police officer would have to have been placed in protective custody if he went to prison.
The judge noted a conditional sentence may be more restorative and such a sentence meets the criteria of denunciation and deterrence.
She handed Robinson, who was stoic throughout the proceedings and refused to talk to the media, a 12-month conditional sentence, which includes 24-hour house arrest ending Aug. 31, coinciding with the completion of a residential treatment program he already entered. Following that, he is to follow a number of conditions including a 9 p.m. curfew, not consuming alcohol, paying a $1,000 fine, and writing a letter of explanation and sympathy to the victim's family.
Outside the courthouse, Hutchinson's mother, Judith Hutchinson, was clearly frustrated at the sentence, saying it amounted to no more than a grounding.
"Whatever sentence was going to be imposed was obviously not enough. It doesn't change our grief or bring anything back. We are glad there was denunciation and condemnation and he's being held accountable, but that sentence just felt like he's being grounded. It doesn't feel like a sentence to me. That's not enough," she said.
Hutchinson said Robinson having to write a letter of apology means "less than nothing" for her grieving family.
Also angered Robinson escaped a jail sentence, Adele Tompkins, executive director of the B.C. Coalition of Motorcyclists, told reporters the fact that Robinson was an RCMP officer should have outweighed the fact he is aboriginal.
Outside the courthouse, Crown prosecutor Kris Prechet, who was seeking a six-to-nine month jail sentence or conditional sentence of 12 to 18 months for Robinson, noted that Robinson was not convicted for the collision itself.
"The Crown was careful to point out, as the judge was, that Mr. Robinson, in law, did not cause the death of the young man. He was not prosecuted for anything to do with his driving but his actions and acts in the chain of events that occurred after, and how his behaviour thereby interfered with his true responsibility in terms of his blood-alcohol content," he explained.
The RCMP last week announced Robinson was no longer a member of the force.
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