Thursday, Jul 8, 2004

Robinson to plead guilty: lawyer

Globe and Mail Update

Former New Democrat MP Svend Robinson will plead guilty Aug. 6 on a charge of theft over $5,000, his lawyer said Thursday.

Mr. Robinson did not appear during a brief hearing in provincial court in Richmond, but defence lawyer Michael Bolton told reporters that Mr. Robinson will plead guilty next month.

Mr. Bolton said Mr. Robinson “has indicated from the outset he'll be accepting full responsibility for his actions.”

Asked by reporters if that meant he will plead guilty, Mr. Bolton said: “That's what that means.”

The charge was put over until August on Thursday after special prosecutor Len Doust told Judge Dennis Schmidt that more time is needed to complete the disclosure process.

Mr. Robinson will face a range of penalties from absolute discharge to a maximum of 10 years in prison.

The seven-term MP for Burnaby-Douglas took a sudden medical leave from federal politics in April – stepping down from the job he has had for 25 years after admitting to the theft a tearful press conference.

Mr. Robinson described the months leading up to the incident as a time of "severe stress," and said "something just snapped" when he pocketed a ring during a public sale at an auction house.

Mr. Robinson said he did not know why he took the ring, but was in agony over the incident. After trying to contact the auction house owners without success, Mr. Robinson called the police instead.

"I will not seek to in any way avoid full responsibility for my actions should charges be laid in these circumstances," he said in April. "I have sought and am receiving professional medical help to understand and deal with these issues."

Federal Auction Services Inc. of Brampton, Ont., issued a release shortly after the incident saying it accepted Mr. Robinson's apology and would not pursue criminal charges. Vancouver police subsequently filed charges.

Canada's first openly gay MP, Mr. Robinson was serving as federal NDP spokesman on Health and International Human Rights and had been Deputy House leader since February, 2003.

A member of the NDP since the age of 14, Mr. Robinson was first elected to the House of Commons in May, 1979, to represent the riding of Burnaby-Douglas.

His former constituency assistant Bill Siksay retained the riding for the NDP in the June 28th election by beating Liberal star candidate Bill Cunningham.