The Crown should waste no time in appealing Monty Robinson's slap-on-the-wrist penalty for obstruction of justice.
former RCMP corporal was given a one-T The year conditional sentence Friday for his clumsy attempt to block a police investigation into a 2008 collision that killed a motorcyclist. That sentence included a month of house arrest. The Crown had sought a jail sentence of three to nine months.
On Oct. 25, 2008, Robinson was driving home with his two children from a party, where he had been drinking. His SUV collided with a motorcycle driven by Orion Hutchinson, 21, in Delta.
Even though he was trained in first aid, Robinson did not attempt to help Hutchinson, who died at the scene.
Instead, he gave his driver's licence to two people who had arrived at the scene, told them to call 911, then took his children home and put them to bed.
Before returning to the crash scene, he took two shots of vodka, claiming the drinks were "to suppress the pain."
But prosecutors said it was a dodge familiar to all police officers, aimed at masking Robinson's drinking earlier in the evening in an attempt to avoid an impaired-driving charge. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Janice Dillon agreed and on March 23 found Robinson guilty of obstruction of justice. She had stern words for the former Mountie, saying he knew fully what he was doing.
"His conduct is quite apart from what one would expect from an experienced and responsible off-duty police officer," she said in March. During sentencing last week, she said Robinson's misconduct "strikes at the heart of the justice system."
But the penalty she levied did not match her strong words. Dillon said she took into consideration Robinson's aboriginal status in deciding not to send him to jail, citing the Gladue principle, which requires courts to consider alternatives when it comes to sentencing aboriginals.
That should not have applied in the case of Robinson, a member of the Osoyoos band. He was an experienced, senior police officer, fully trained, fully aware of the ramifications of his actions. His was not an act of desperation or an impassioned impulse.
The sentence does not sit well with Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs president Stewart Phillip. He is correct in saying that rather than being given a break for being an aboriginal, Robinson should have been held to a higher standard as a sworn RCMP officer. This is especially pertinent at a time when the RCMP is under criticism for the misconduct of a few of its officers.
The idea of race-based sentencing is troubling - shouldn't anyone who has led a deprived and disadvantaged childhood get the same break, regardless of ethnicity? Nevertheless, there's merit in trying to remedy imbalances in the justice system, but it shouldn't mean an automatic "get out of jail free" card. Race-based leniency has a touch of condescension to it, a hint of lower expectations. In this case, it also clashes with the notion that people in positions of public trust should be held to a higher standard.
This sentence serves no one well, except perhaps Robinson. It cries out for an appeal.
© Copyright 2013