Edmonton member of Parliament Peter Goldring will rejoin the Conservative caucus after being acquitted of not giving a breath sample in a drinking and driving case.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper released a statement Thursday afternoon welcoming Goldring back to the Conservative caucus.
"I am pleased that Mr. Goldring's personal matter has been resolved," it reads. "I spoke to Mr. Goldring this evening and was happy to welcome him back to the Conservative caucus.
"I look forward to once again working with Peter as our government continues to strengthen the economy and protect Canadian families."
Goldring, who represents Edmonton East, was stopped by an officer parked outside a sports bar on 97th Street and 153rd Avenue just after midnight on Dec. 4, 2011.
According to the responding officers, Goldring locked the doors to his vehicle and refused to come out. One officer also reported Goldring smelled of alcohol. Goldring eventually left his vehicle and was arrested and charged.
Goldring resigned his position in caucus following the incident, but continued to represent Edmonton East as an Independent member of Parliament.
Edmonton court decision
Protesters gathered outside the Edmonton courthouse awaiting the decision, many criticizing Goldring’s decision not to give a breath sample.
The Crown prosecutor argued that Goldring was asked several times to give a breath sample, but would not leave his vehicle, actually locking the doors and refusing to roll down the window.
During closing arguments in April, Dinos Bottos, Goldring's lawyer, accused the arresting officer of assassinating the character of the 68-year-old MP.
Bottos said Const. Trevor Shelrud made too many mistakes during the arrest.
He called Shelrud's testimony that Goldring tried to negotiate himself out of the situation nonsense.
During his trial, Goldring testified that he had one or two glasses of wine at a political fundraiser earlier that evening, and one beer before leaving a sports bar.
Provincial Judge Larry Anderson told the court Thursday he was left with reasonable doubt after hearing evidence in the trial that ended last month.
"I am not satisfied that the Crown has established that Mr. Goldring's failure to blow was either a conscious decision or a wilful act."
Anderson ruled that Goldring wasn't trying to avoid taking a test, but was simply asking questions that any person in his situation would have asked when officers pulled him over.
"The questions that Mr. Goldring was asking do not suggest he was just buying time," he said.
"He was obviously in a dilemma. The questions were basically those that one might expect a detainee would ask a lawyer if that option were available."
Anderson said the decision does not set a precedent, and cautioned that it would be wrong for people to think the best defence is to ask the police a lot of questions when pulled over.
Problems with legislation
Speaking outside of the courthouse after the decision was read, Goldring said his case highlights existing problems within current roadside checkstop legislation.
He said the rights of drivers are unclear during the mandatory 15-minute interval police must wait out before administering a breath test to drivers if they have just had a drink.
Goldring testified the arresting officer waited only five minutes before demanding he blow into the machine, and then repeatedly ignored Goldring’s requests to phone his lawyer.
"I wanted to know some information, I wanted to know what happens when other things happen, and I was promised by initial officers that the sergeant would be there shortly and he would answer any and all questions that I had," he said outside the courthouse. "That's what we were in the process of doing when they jumped the gun."
Goldring said he intends to follow through with changing what he calls the problematic legislation.
"The little bit that I've reviewed of this judge's dissertation substantiates the need for some clarity, substantiates the need to take a look at it. No law is perfect," he said.
With files from The Canadian Press