British Columbia

B.C. Mountie drank to 'calm nerves' after fatal crash

An off-duty RCMP officer involved in a deadly collision told a police officer he'd taken two shots of vodka after the crash to "calm his nerves," a B.C. court has heard - but his lawyer says the statement should be dissallowed.

But officer's lawyer argues police testimony about drinking should be disallowed

The lawyer for an off-duty RCMP officer accused of obstructing justice by leaving the scene of a fatal motorcycle accident and then pounding back two shots of vodka to "calm his nerves" is arguing testimony about the officer's statement should be disallowed.

Cpl. Monty Robinson is facing a second round of high-profile accusations: A year before the motorcycle accident, Robinson was the senior officer among the four Mounties who approached a Polish immigrant at Vancouver's airport, a confrontation that left Robert Dziekanski dead after he was zapped with an RCMP Taser.

Robinson's lawyer, David Crossin, argued Tuesday testimony by the officer that arrested Robinson at the scene of the motorcycle accident should not be considered by the judge hearing the case because Robinson hadn't been notified of his right to legal counsel before telling her about the vodka.

"She ought to have warned him," Crossin said of Const. Sarah Swallow, the Delta, B.C. police officer who arrested Robinson.

"She was about to, frankly, put the final nail in the coffin."

The Crown is expected to argue that the information should be admissible and it's unclear when the court will rule. Const. Sarah Swallow told Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson's obstruction of justice trial in New Westminster, B.C., Tuesday that Robinson wasn't at the accident site when she arrived, but he appeared a few minutes later.

A man who was walking his dog and saw the aftermath of the crash had Robinson's driver's license, she testified.

Swallow said the bystander told her that the driver of the Jeep said he was taking his children home and would be back.

Minutes later, Swallow said she saw Robinson standing just feet away from firefighters who were working frantically trying to save motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson, 21. Minutes later, a sheet was pulled up to cover the young man's body.

This isn't the first time Robinson's actions have been under public scrutiny. He was the senior officer who confronted Polish migrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport in October 2007.

Dziekanski died on the floor of the arrivals terminal after being jolted several times by an RCMP Taser.

Hutchinson died in the crash in October 2008, one year after Dziekanski died.

Slurring words

Swallow said Robinson smelled of alcohol, was slurring his words and appeared to have had more to drink than just two shots of vodka.

She told the trial she asked if he had had anything to drink that night.

"Mr. Robinson replied that when he was at home he'd had a drink to calm his nerves."

Motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson had consumed alcohol before the fatal collision.

He explained that he had also been at a party earlier and had a few beer, Swallow told the court.

Robinson told her he had two shots of vodka after taking his children, aged 7 and 12, to his home which was not far from the accident scene, Swallow told the court.

Hutchinson, who also had alcohol in his system, was killed when his motorcycle slammed into Robinson's Jeep in on the suburban Delta street.

Crown prosecutor Kris Pechet told the trial in his opening statement earlier that Robinson tried to use his police training to escape a drunk driving conviction when he claimed to have had the alcohol after the crash.

Testimony on training expected

Pechet said Crown witnesses will say Robinson took an RCMP data training course in 2005 where he was taught that people who have an accident while driving after drinking can defeat an impaired charge if they have something to drink after the accident.

By leaving their driver's licence at the accident scene, they can escape a charge of leaving the scene of a crash.

Swallow said she arrested Robinson that night for impaired driving causing death, but he was charged with obstruction of justice and has pleaded not guilty.

She testified she only learned that Robinson was a peace officer when she was booking him and asked what he did for a living.  He replied that he was an RCMP officer in Richmond.

Swallow said she asked Robinson if the collision happened when he turned in front of the motorcycle and Robinson replied "I have no idea."