The four RCMP officers involved in the tasering of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in 2007 will all face criminal perjury charges in connection with their testimony about the incident before the Braidwood Inquiry.
Special prosecutor Richard Peck made the recommendation – which the province’s criminal justice branch has accepted – after conducting an independent assessment of the allegations of misconduct against the Mounties involved.
Peck recommended against laying any other charges for the actual altercation or the ensuing investigation of Dziekanski’s death, concluding there was no substantial likelihood of conviction.
The four RCMP officers involved in the October 2007 incident at Vancouver International Airport were Cpl. Benjamin “Monty” Robinson, Const. Kwesi Millington, Const. Bill Bentley and Const. Gerry Rundel.
Robinson was last month ordered to stand trial on a separate charge of obstruction of justice in connection with the October 2008 crash in Tsawwassen that killed 21-year-old motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson. He is currently suspended from the RCMP. The other three officers are still working in varying capacities.
Special prosecutors are appointed in rare cases to avoid any real or perceived improper influence on decisions of B.C.’s criminal justice branch.
Justice Thomas Braidwood, in his report released last June after a lengthy public inquiry, found the officers’ use of the Taser was unjustified and their later statements included “deliberate misrepresentations” that contradicted the cellphone video evidence recorded by a bystander.
The four claimed a combative stapler-wielding Dziekanski was advancing and posed an imminent threat to them.
Dziekanski, who wandered for hours unaided at the airport before becoming frustrated, was tasered five times and died within minutes of cardiac arrest.
Crown had previously decided not to lay charges against the officers involved.
SFU criminologist Rob Gordon agrees there was little chance a charge like assault would have stuck.
“The Crown would be hard pressed to prove that the four officers in the short time they had with Mr. Dziekanski could have formed the necessary mental intent to kill him or otherwise harm him,” Gordon said.
He expects a lengthy perjury case to determine whether the officers, duty-bound to tell the truth, lied under oath.
“It’s a serious offence because it cuts to the heart of the trial process,” Gordon said of the alleged perjury.
“When there’s more than one of them, which smacks of a conspiracy, then clearly there’s grounds for concern.”
Dziekanski’s mother Sofia Cisowski said in a statement she was pleased with the charges and hoped “justice will finally be achieved in the death of my son.”
The maximum sentence for perjury is 14 years in jail, although nobody had ever received more than six until this January, when Air India bomb-maker Inderjit Singh Reyat was handed a nine-year sentence for lying under oath at the Air India bombing trial.
The provincial criminal justice branch has indicated it won’t disclose detailed reasons why other charges weren’t recommended until after the perjury case is finished, in order to protect the integrity of that prosecution.
The perjury charges will proceed by direct indictment, meaning there will be no preliminary inquiry.