Delay in reviewing
Dziekanski file
creates injustice

Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun, May 3, 2011


Richard Peck still is trying to decide whether the four RCMP officers tainted in the 2007 Robert Dziekanski tragedy should be criminally charged.

With the first anniversary of his appointment as a special prosecutor approaching next month, Peck says he hopes to finish his report “soon.”

One of B.C.’s most respected lawyers, he is unquestionably weighing difficult, thorny issues — not only whether there is a prima facie case against the four, but also whether there is a substantial likelihood of conviction and whether it’s in the public interest to proceed.

But that’s why he was hired — he’s one of our top legal minds.

Peck was the first special prosecutor hired 20 years ago to consider laying charges against polygamy practitioners in Bountiful. (He said no.)

As well, he was the lead lawyer for accused Air India terrorist Ajaib Singh Bagri. Peck helped get him acquitted in 2005 for the worst mass murder in our history.

Peck was hired, too, by Ontario to handle the case of a former attorney-general of that province involved in a fatal car crash that killed a bike courier.

Canadian Lawyer magazine in a profile dubbed him Mr. Congeniality, “the model of civility, never blusterous like the litigators often portrayed on television.”

So last June 18, when retired justice Thomas Braidwood issued a final report on the Dziekanski incident, it was unsurprising that Victoria turned to Peck to review the original decision to not charge the officers.

It’s hard to read Braidwood’s searing account and not conclude the criminal justice branch made a serious mistake in its handling of the case.

Braidwood bluntly condemned Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson and Constables Kwesi Millington, Bill Bentley and Gerry Rundel.

They confronted a frustrated and confused Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport and, seconds later, Tasered the 40-year-old Polish immigrant five times. He subsequently died.

Braidwood said that was shameful conduct and an unjustified use of force. He dismissed as false their claims they were forced to wrestle Dziekanski to the ground, noting that he’d collapsed writhing in pain after the first shock.

A few weeks after his appointment, Peck announced Braidwood’s two-year inquiry had unearthed “factual material that was not available to the branch at the time [the original charge decision was made], including but not limited to expert video analysis and expert opinions relating to the reasonableness of the escalation and de-escalation of force.”

He said it was obvious a review of the charge decision was justified.

But while he has been re-examining the case as a special prosecutor, Peck also has been dealing with other clients.

About a month and a half after he took the Dziekanski job, Peck was defending a Fraser Valley Punjabi radio director charged in a local temple shooting.

At about the same time, he went to bat for Abbotsford physician Jonathan Burns, who pleaded guilty to bribing a former B.C. assistant deputy health minister to win medical service contracts worth more than $1 million. Burns got three years probation and 100 hours of community work.

Peck also acted for the company convicted in October of paying a $50,000 bribe to disgraced provincial bureaucrat David Basi in connection with a Sooke real-estate deal.

As well, he represents Ron Bencze, the former Global TV reporter charged with child sex crimes.

Oh, and Peck was involved in another government case that took up his time, too — in December he defended the conduct of the criminal justice branch at the Frank Paul inquiry. I question the wisdom of that while working on the Dziekanski file, but set that aside.

The inquiry into Paul’s December 1998 death heard that the seven-month delay in the charge-approval process in the police-involved case was “too long” and “excessive.”

More than 90 per cent of all charge decisions are made within a month.

We’re looking at 11 months here and counting. I think Peck has taken too long to review the Dziekanski file — and that delay runs counter to the public interest and the rights of the four officers to timely justice.

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