RCMP Cpl. Benjamin "Monty" Robinson acted to mislead police when he downed two shots of vodka following the 2008 crash that killed a South Delta man, a judge ruled Friday.
In her decision handed down in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, Justice Janice Dillon found Robinson's actions deliberate and convicted the Mountie of obstruction of justice.
"Robinson's act of drinking the vodka was, I conclude, wilfully designed to set up the defence that he had learned during his police training," the judge stated in handing down her ruling.
Robinson was charged following the Oct. 25, 2008 crash that killed Orion Hutchinson. The 21-year-old died after a collision between his motorcycle and Robinson's Jeep at about 10: 15 p.m. at the corner of 6th Avenue and Gilchrist Drive in Tsawwassen.
Following the crash, Robinson left the scene with his children, leaving his driver's licence with a bystander, and walked to his home a couple of blocks away. After settling his children into bed, he went downstairs and drank two shots of vodka before returning to the scene of the crash where he told a Delta police officer that he had drank two beers at a party earlier in the evening and then had to shots at home to calm his nerves.
Robinson later testified that he had consumed five beers at the party but neglected to correct himself after telling the officer it was only two.
An addictions specialist testified during trial that in October 2008 Robinson was an alcoholic and his actions were consistent with someone suffering from alcohol dependence.
Robinson testified that he drank the vodka without thinking because it gave him comfort.
The judge placed little weight on the expert's conclusions and said she did not find Robinson's explanation credible.
Dillon concluded that, based his knowledge as a veteran police officer, Robinson would have known that drinking the vodka after the crash and then not telling police the exact amount would potentially throw off any impaired driving investigation.
"He had time to think and chose to deliberately mislead [the police], knowing in detail the effect his would have upon any investigation," she said.
Robinson will be sentenced later this spring. A date of April 4 has been scheduled to set a date for sentencing.
Orion Hutchinson's mother, Judith Hutchinson, said outside the courthouse that she was feeling a sense of satisfaction and relief after hearing the verdict.
"Nothing can change the grief and the loss that we feel... that doesn't bring my son back, but there is definitely a feeling of satisfaction at hearing that very strongly worded word guilty," she said.
She called for the RCMP to immediately suspend Robinson without pay, terminate him and launch an internal investigation.
In a statement following the verdict, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Norm Lipinski, district commander for the Lower Mainland, said Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens is seeking to have Robinson dismissed.
Asked why Robinson won't be fired outright, now that he's a convicted criminal, Lipinski said he's still entitled to due process as a police officer under the RCMP Act.
"We believe in due process," he said. "We have to go through those steps."
This is necessary, Lipinski said, "to be fair, transparent and accountable.
"Everyone, including a police officer, is entitled to due process."
Lipinski noted Robinson was off duty when he committed his crime.
After his arrest Robinson was suspended from duty with pay, and will continue to be paid up until he's fired.
"As far as the review for the status of pay, I'm presuming it'll probably take days, but as far as putting this package together that would go to an adjudication hearing, that could be longer and I can't give a specific timeline on that."
As for the crime itself, Lipinski said, "I can only imagine how difficult this process has been for the family of Orion Hutchinson," he said.
"On behalf of the RCMP I wish to express our sympathy and sorrow for what they've had to go through, and what they continue to go through."
Interestingly, Lipinski noted Robinson is still the subject on a Code of Conduct investigation while in his same statement, which he read to reporters in Surrey on Friday, Lipinski said Robinson's behaviour "obviously does not meet our standards of conduct."
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