Four Mounties involved in a fatal confrontation with Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski that raised enduring questions about the use of tasers are being charged with perjury related to testimony they gave to an independent inquiry.
The criminal justice branch of the B.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General announced Friday that the special prosecutor who has been reviewing the case since June had concluded that charges are appropriate.
However, Richard Peck ruled out charging the officers over their conduct during their confrontation with Mr. Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007, after he began acting erratically after a long flight from Poland. That confrontation and subsequent tasering were caught by a bystander on videotape and prompted international outrage.
Mr. Peck made that decision because he concluded there was no likelihood of conviction, said a statement from the criminal justice branch.
Mr. Dziekanski’s mother, who was waiting for her only child to arrive that night so he could start a new life in Canada, is disappointed at Mr. Peck’s conclusion, her lawyer said.
“But she’s thankful to the prosecutor for all his hard work and glad to know these officers are facing charges,” said Walter Kosteckyj.
Zofia Cisowksi, who lives in Kamloops, B.C., was a vigilant presence at the long-running Braidwood Inquiry into the case, and will be back for the criminal prosecution, Mr. Kosteckyj said. “She will obviously be a very interested observer of the criminal proceedings.”
The Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Ottawa released a statement Saturday saying that, though they welcome the news about perjury charges, this "does not diminish the fact that we find it disappointing that there are no recommendations for criminal charges in respect to the incident..."
Mr. Peck’s recommendations will be sent for review to the deputy attorney-general. Following the review, a more detailed statement on the charges will be released. The veteran Vancouver lawyer is calling for the case to proceed by direct indictment, which would void the need for a preliminary hearing.
The accused Mounties are Constables Kwesi Millington, Gerry Rundel, and Bill Bentley, as well as Corporal Benjamin (Monty) Robinson, who was commanding the group. The three constables remain on duty in Toronto, Nanaimo, B.C., and Milton, Ont. Cpl. Robinson has been suspended because he is facing charges after an unrelated car crash in October, 2008.
An RCMP spokesman said the force was informed of the charges late Friday and it is unclear if the officers will be suspended from work during the legal proceedings.
“The RCMP respects the decision of the special prosecutor and since this matter is now before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further regarding the duty status of the four officers and any possible internal discipline that they may face now that charges are being laid,” said Inspector Tim Shields. “These are issues that are going to have to be discussed in the coming weeks.”
Lawyers for some of the officers promised a spirited defence.
“We say there is no substance to the proposed charges at all. They will be defended with full vigour,” said David Butcher, the lawyer for Constable Bentley.
Ravi Hira said his client, Constable Millington, is “disappointed” with the news, but will plead not guilty.
“[He] will be answering the evidence as it unfolds in court,” Mr. Hira said.