Crown asks to drop 2 charges against Bakema

The Crown has asked the judge in the case against former police chief Harry Bakema to drop three of six perjury charges.
Harold Bakema, seen at the Taman inquiry in 2008, has pleaded not guilty to perjury, breach of trust and obstruction of justice. His trial began April 30 in Winnipeg. (CBC)

The Crown has asked a Winnipeg judge in the case against former East St. Paul police chief Harry Bakema to drop two of six perjury charges he faces.

The judge heard final submissions on Thursday in Bakema's trial, which began hearing testimony April 30 in Winnipeg.

The judge has reserved his decision, which is not expected until early summer.

The Crown says there is simply not enough evidence to support two of the perjury charges but insists there is enough evidence to convict Bakema of the other four as well as the charges of obstructing justice and breach of trust.

Bakema led the East St. Paul police force when Crystal Taman was killed on Feb. 25, 2005.

Police photo of Crystal Taman's car after the crash on Feb. 25, 2005. (Taman Inquiry)

Taman's car was rear-ended by a vehicle being driven by Derek Harvey-Zenk, who at the time was an officer with the Winnipeg Police Service.

Harvey-Zenk originally faced several charges, but a controversial plea bargain led to all the charges — except for one count of dangerous driving causing death — being stayed.

He received a conditional sentence of two years less a day to be served at home. He has since turned in his police badge.

Harvey-Zenk's plea bargain and sentence sparked public outrage and prompted the Manitoba government to hold an inquiry in 2008 into Taman's death.

Crystal Taman in an undated photograph filed as part of the 2008 provincial inquiry into her death. ((Taman inquiry))

Court heard during the trial that Bakema and Harvey-Zenk knew each other when they were both Winnipeg police officers based in the city's North End.

The Crown says Bakema knew Harvey-Zenk had been at an all night party the night before he smashed into Taman's car, and that he also knew Harvey-Zenk had been drinking.

The Crown says evidence of that comes from a senior Winnipeg police officer who testified Bakema phoned her on the morning of the crash and gave her those details.

However, a botched investigation by police, part of which was done by Bakema, led to the plea bargain.

Bakema was charged in 2010, following a lengthy external investigation into how the East St. Paul police force handled the probe into the death of Taman, a 40-year-old mother of three.

The lawyer who led the inquiry called what happened a "colossal failure of justice."

Former Winnipeg police officer Derek Harvey-Zenk was convicted of dangerous driving causing death in the crash that killed Crystal Taman. (Taman Inquiry)

He said interviews conducted with Harvey-Zenk's police colleagues, who had been partying with him that night, were not done properly.

And Bakema's testimony at the inquiry was contradictory and lacked credibility, the lawyer said at that time, noting he altered his notes, suppressed evidence and revised history.

On Thursday, defence lawyer Hymie Weinstein told the court that Bakema never obstructed justice in his handling of the Harvey-Zenk case, nor did he intend to obstruct justice.

Weinstein said plenty of mistakes were made during the investigation by several East St. Paul police members, but they were not criminally motivated.

"What was heard in this courtroom should be considered here," Weinstein told the court.

"This is not a court of public opinion. Decisions here must be based on evidence."

In the wake of the inquiry's findings, the province disbanded the East St. Paul police force and hired the RCMP to police the area, which is just north of Winnipeg.

Bakema, who has since retired from police work, is the only person to face criminal charges following the inquiry.