Robinson pleads guilty to theft
Answers, 'Yes, I do, your honour,' when asked if he wished to plead guilty to theft of expensive ring


Aug. 6, 2004. 01:43 PM

New Democrat MP Svend Robinson, right, is consoled by partner Max Riveron at an emotional news conference in Burnaby, B.C., on April 15.


VANCOUVER - Former NDP MP Svend Robinson pleaded guilty today to stealing an expensive ring.

When asked by the judge if he wished to plead guilty, a nervous-looking Robinson replied: "Yes I do, your honour."

The plea had been expected after Robinson told a nationally televised news conference in April that he had "pocketed" an expensive piece of jewelry in a moment of "utter irrationality."

An agreed statement of fact about the incident was to be read in court and lawyers for Robinson and the Crown were expected to make submissions on sentencing during today's proceedings.

Robinson, wearing a rumpled grey suit, arrived in court with his partner Max Riveron.

Vancouver NDP MP Libby Davies was there, as well as Bill Siksay, Robinson's longtime constituency assistant and friend who won Robinson's seat in the June federal election.

Robinson's high-profile Toronto lawyer, Clayton Ruby, was also there.

In April, the media gathered for Robinson's surprise admission, ``something just snapped."

He blamed severe stress and emotional pain and took immediate medical leave from his work as MP.

While Robinson, wouldn't elaborate on his condition, he blamed some of the stress on a 1997 hiking accident where he was severely injured.

Just weeks before a federal election was to be called, Robinson also resigned his position as the New Democrat candidate for Burnaby-Douglas.

A week before the election, special prosecutor Len Doust decided Robinson, Canada's first openly gay MP, should face a charge of theft over $5,000.

The owner of the ring, Federal Auction Service of Brampton said the ring was worth $64,500 and was pleased to see it returned.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, but that's reserved for the worst repeat offenders, lawyers have said.

The most likely options for Robinson, a first-time offender, are an absolute discharge, a conditional discharge or a suspended sentence.

The absolute discharge means no criminal record, a conditional discharge means no criminal record if a series of conditions are met and a suspended sentence means a criminal record but no jail time as long as certain conditions are met.

Political watchers have said a conviction wouldn't bar Robinson from again running for a seat in the House of Commons, although he would have to go through an intense disclosure process with the party before the NDP would permit him to run.

With a criminal record, Robinson will likely be barred from entering the United States. But for a fee of $300, Robinson could apply for a waiver to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The process includes fingerprinting by the FBI, takes eight to nine months and requires the applicant to reapply every year.

Robinson, 52, could have more difficulty returning to his previous profession as a lawyer.

The Law Society of B.C. requires that in order to be called to the bar or reinstated, a candidate must be of good character and repute and fit to practice law.

A spokesman for the society has said Robinson would likely have to try to explain himself to the law society's credentials committee and prove he has overcome his problems.

Robinson is working for the month of August with the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union.

The union said Robinson will work in its advocacy department, analysing contracts and presenting cases to arbitrators to help resolve a backlog of grievances by union members.

He is expected to start work next week.

Robinson will be eligible at age 55 for his parliamentary pension, which for him amounts to $86,663 per year.