Tuesday, Jun 22, 2004

NDP MP Robinson charged with theft

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

Vancouver More than two months after tearfully confessing that he pocketed a pricey ring, NDP MP Svend Robinson has been charged with theft after a lengthy police and Crown probe of the case.

Special prosecutor Leonard Doust submitted his report yesterday to officials in British Columbia's criminal justice branch, who agreed with Mr. Doust's suggestion to lay the charge.

The official charge is one count of theft of a ring valued in excess of $5,000. If he is convicted, the maximum penalty is 10 years, said Geoffrey Gaul, director of British Columbia's Legal Services.

Mr. Robinson, 52, who has been in seclusion for weeks at a summer retreat on Galiano Island that he shares with his partner, Max Riveron, has been summoned to appear in Provincial Court on July 8 in Richmond.

The alleged theft took place at an auction near the Vancouver airport.

Mr. Gaul said Mr. Doust telephoned Mr. Robinson's lawyer yesterday to tell him of the charge.

Last April, Mr. Robinson stunned his constituents and Canadians when he summoned reporters to his suburban Vancouver constituency office to make the admission. The Burnaby-Douglas MP, a pioneer in the gay-rights movement, said he "just snapped" while under immense personal pressure, and took an expensive ring at a jewellery sale.

At that news conference, Mr. Robinson took no questions but announced he was retiring from politics.

Bill Siksay, Mr. Robinson's close friend and current NDP candidate in the vacated Burnaby-Douglas riding, said he expects his friend will take responsibility for his action.

Mr. Siksay, who has not seen Mr. Robinson for a few days, also said he believed Mr. Robinson would be relieved that a decision has finally been made about criminal charges.

Not knowing what would happen has been weighing heavily on him, Mr. Siksay said in an interview. "I know Svend will be relieved there has been some movement ..... although he would have preferred that he not be charged." Mr. Siksay also said Mr. Robinson's difficulties have not been an issue with the public. "In four weeks, only two people voiced any anger or annoyance. People express concern and offer support. There is an understanding of his personal tragedy."

Mr. Robinson was believed to be in Ottawa yesterday, closing down his office on Parliament Hill, when police laid the charge.

After making the public confession, Mr. Robinson, who has represented his riding for more than 25 years, dropped out of public view.

He said he was stepping down as an MP to "devote my full energy and time to recovery and healing."

At the time of the alleged theft, it was reported that Mr. Robinson had been in the market for an engagement ring and planned to propose to Mr. Riveron. A jeweller in Mr. Robinson's riding said the MP had examined a diamond ring priced at $10,300 two days before the alleged theft at the airport.A day after Mr. Robinson's public confession, the province appointed Mr. Doust, a top B.C. criminal lawyer, to decide whether charges were warranted. Mr. Gaul said a special prosecutor was needed to avoid the appearance of improper influence.