Stanley Cup riot prosecution not slow says Crown

B.C.'s criminal justice branch is defending the pace of the judicial process that took nearly five years to prosecute 300 people charged in Vancouver's 2011 Stanley Cup riot.

After four-and-a-half years, the prosecution of 300 people charged in riot is nearly over

Vancouver Canucks fans pose in front of a burning police cruiser during the Stanley Cup riot in downtown Vancouver on June 15, 2011. (Geoff Howe/Canadian Press)

After nearly four-and-a-half years and $5 million, B.C.'s Criminal Justice Branch says the prosecution of 300 people charged in Vancouver's 2011 Stanley Cup riot is nearly at an end.

In a report released Monday, the province's assistant deputy attorney general defended the pace of the judicial system.

"Many questions were posed, including questions about the time it was taking to proceed with charges and prosecutions," Joyce DeWitt-Van Oosten said in a letter accompanying the report.

"I am proud of the way in which Crown Counsel and the Branch's administrative staff managed the riot prosecutions."

A total of 300 people charged

The riot took place for about five hours on June 15, 2011 in the aftermath of a Game 7 Stanley Cup final playoff loss by the Vancouver Canucks to the Boston Bruins.

About 55,000 people watched the game at a public viewing area and an additional 100,000 people were in the nearby streets.

Rioters break the front doors of a Sears department store on Granville Street during the 2011 Stanley Cup riot. (Geoff Howe/Canadian Press)

According to the report, an investigative team identified a total of 297 "discrete riot events" including arson, mischief, break-and-enter and assault. The monetary cost was $3.78 million.

A total of 300 people were ultimately charged and, of those, 284 pleaded guilty. Another nine were convicted at trial and one was acquitted. Stays of proceedings were entered in six cases.

The criminal justice branch report cites media stories comparing the pace of justice in B.C. with much quicker prosecutions in the U.K following four days of riots in the summer of 2011.

Five people lost their lives and 300 police officers were injured in what was called the "most widespread outbreaks of disorder seen in England for a generation." The total damage was set at more than $760 million Cdn.

'Both approaches have had their share of critics'

But by contrast to what appeared to be the grinding pace of justice in Vancouver, courts in the U.K leapt into overdrive. 

Hours were extended to deal with the rioters; accused were detained in custody while the riots were still happening; and "immediate" custody sentences were meted out to people who pleaded guilty.

The report says the prosecutions in England and Vancouver "were carried out in very different contexts."

Most of the people arrested in the U.K. were charged with burglary or theft, whereas the Vancouver accused were charged with rioting, a more difficult offence to prove.

To that end, the report says investigators collected 5,500 hours of video and 29,700 photographs, as compared to the 100 hours of video evidence which emerged from Vancouver's 1994 Stanley Cup riot.

Police brought in an outside agency to help process all the evidence.

"There was an urgency in arresting and detaining rioters in London," the report says.

"Investigators in Vancouver required more time to properly obtain and authenticate video evidence so that the offence of riot could be properly established."

The report says "both approaches have had their share of critics."

It took 500 days of court time to handle sentencing and trials. The report says 94 per cent of the 246 adult offenders were given time for their crimes; half were sentenced to jail and half served their time in the community.

More than 80 per cent of the 54 youth offenders were sentenced to community supervision.

The report suggests people who criticize police and prosecutors for the delays "demonstrated a misunderstanding of the process." 


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