Robinson to avoid record, jail time in ring theft

Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby speaks to reporters outside a Vancouver court with his client, former MP Svend Robinson on Friday.
 Photo: Chuck Stoody/CP
Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby speaks to reporters outside a Vancouver court with his client, former MP Svend Robinson on Friday.

Globe and Mail Update

Friday, Aug 6, 2004

Former New Democrat MP Svend Robinson will avoid jail time and a criminal record after pleading guilty to a charge of theft over $5,000 in a Vancouver court Friday.

Mr. Robinson was given a conditional discharge in a sentence that included 100 hours of community service, reports say. He was facing a range of penalties from a discharge to a maximum of 10 years in prison.

"On balance, the credits outweigh the debits for Mr. Robinson, Judge Ronald Fratkin said in his decision. "I'm satisfied that what he has gone through is enough. He's fallen a long way and embarrassed himself."

Mr. Robinson appeared before reporters after the decision was read, but refused comment aside from a statement made by his high-profile Toronto lawyer, Clayton Ruby.

Mr. Robinson told court the court he has been through a "shattering experience" for which he felt remorse and shame.

"Mr. Robinson feels a deep sense of shame and remorse," Mr. Ruby said later. "He's grateful that the court's judgment reflects an understanding of the role of the exceptional stress under which he has laboured and the role of a life of unusual accomplishment."

Mr. Ruby also thanked the "thousands of Canadians" who have expressed their support for him.

B.C. Crown spokesman Geoff Gaul said it was far too early to speculate over an appeal in the case.

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.

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 by beating star Liberal candidate Bill Cunningham in the June 28 election.

Mr. Robinson recently signed a one-month contract with the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union where he will work to reduce the union's huge backlog of grievances and arbitrations.