New Brunswick

RCMP should pay maximum $1M in Moncton Mountie shootings, Crown says

The RCMP "took a chance" with officer safety when it didn't equip its members with carbine rifles and should pay the maximum penalty of $1 million for the 2014 shooting deaths of three Moncton Mounties, the Crown argued on Thursday.

Paul Adams argues strong message needed to bring significant cultural change within the national police force

Crown prosecutor Paul Adams argued the RCMP demonstrated a 'marked arrogance' in not equipping its officers with carbine rifles. (CBC)

The RCMP "took a chance" with officer safety when it didn't equip its members with carbine rifles and should pay the maximum penalty of $1 million for the 2014 shooting deaths of three Moncton Mounties and the wounding of two others, the Crown argued at the national police force's sentencing hearing on Thursday.

Crown prosecutor Paul Adams said in Moncton provincial court that mismanagement and a confounding lack of urgency are to blame for the Labour Code conviction stemming from the shooting rampage of Justin Bourque on June 4, 2014.

The sentence needs to send a strong message to bring a significant cultural change within the national police force, he said.

Adams also asked the RCMP be ordered to make a public statement following sentencing.

The RCMP was found guilty in September of failing to provide adequate use-of-force equipment and related user training to the Moncton Mounties, who were killed or wounded trying to stop the heavily armed gunman.

Judge Leslie Jackson ruled that patrol carbines could have made a difference that night, but the organization "limped along" on the issue and left its officers "ill-prepared."

Defence lawyer Mark Ertel recommended a total penalty of $500,000 — a $100,000 fine and $400,000 in donations, which he said the RCMP could pay immediately.

The national police force is a public institution with a fixed budget, he stressed, so the penalty amount will take away from other matters, such as crime prevention.

'Model reaction'

Ertel argued the RCMP has accepted responsibility, pointing to the "immediate, sweeping, and public" hiring of Alphonse MacNeil to review the shooting and make recommendations.

Almost all of MacNeil's recommendations have been fully implemented, he said. Those recommendations included training officers on carbine rifles — high-powered, short-barrelled rifles that have a longer and more accurate range than a pistol or shotgun.

Former RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson, pictured here in the centre leaving the Moncton courthouse with defence lawyers Ian Carter, left, and Jon Doody during the trial earlier this year, retired at the end of June. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Nearly 5,000 carbines are now available to front-line officers, said Ertel, and 74.5 per cent of front-line members at the Codiac RCMP detachment in Moncton are trained to use them.

"This is not a response of an organization that does not clearly accept responsibility," he said. "It's a model reaction."

Jackson will rule on sentencing on Jan. 26 at 9:30 a.m.

Widow tells court of 'traumatic loss'

During the sentencing hearing, the court heard an audio recording of a victim impact statement by the widow of Const. Fabrice Gevaudan, who was killed along with constables Douglas Larche and Dave Ross. Constables Darlene Goguen and Eric Dubois were wounded.

Angela Gevaudan, who used to work as a dispatcher for the RCMP, said she was aware the deadly outcome of June 4 was a very real possibility before that night and she had expressed her concerns to superiors.

She contends there should be an independent body to oversee RCMP officer safety issues. Otherwise "these types of issues will never be properly addressed," she said.

"My family and I have suffered a traumatic loss because of the events of June 4," said Gevaudan. 

The fact people were aware of safety issues before that night has only increased her suffering, she said.

'Lives could have been saved'

Nadine Larche, widow of Const. Doug Larche, pictured here after the judge's verdict on Sept. 29, wrote in her victim impact statement that she believes her husband would still be alive if the officers had the proper 'tools' on June 4, 2014. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Nadine Larche, whose husband was the third Mountie killed that night, told the court "lives could have been saved" by "better decisions and better actions by those in charge."

"I firmly believe that my husband, and the father of our three children, would still be alive today had he and his colleagues had the proper 'tools' to fight back better that fateful day," Larche wrote in her brief victim impact statement.

Lives were lost. Lives were forever changed.- Nadine Larche, widow

She and her daughters, now aged seven, 12 and 13, "feel his loss in every moment of every day."

"Lives were lost. Lives were forever changed."

Larche said she is too mentally and physically exhausted to write "another" statement and instead "humbly" submitted a poem she wrote three years ago when her husband was murdered.

It reads in part: " No more wedding anniversaries to celebrate. No more baking Daddy's birthday cake. No retirement party to attend. No more going on dates with my best friend."

Const. Rob Nickerson, who served that night, also submitted written victim impact statement for the judge's consideration.

Deficiency identified 7 years prior

The Crown reviewed the evidence heard at trial, noting RCMP understood as early as 2007 there was a weapons deficiency if officers had to respond to active threat situations.

Carbine rifles would have been 'a game changer' when Moncton RCMP officers faced the heavily armed Justin Bourque on June 4, 2014, the Crown said. (CBC)

But seven years later, on the night of the shootings, there were still no carbines available in Moncton, and none of the officers were trained to use them.

Bourque was armed with an M305.308 semi-automatic rifle and a Mossberg 500 12-gauge shotgun. The responding officers, who were all shot within 20 minutes, were equipped only with pistols, which have inferior range, power and accuracy, the trial heard.

Carbines would have been "a game changer," said Adams. The lack of vigilance with respect to officer safety is a serious aggravating factor, he argued.

From left, Const. Douglas James Larche, 40, from Saint John, N.B., Const. Dave Joseph Ross, 32, from Victoriaville, Que., and Const. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, from Boulogne-Billancourt, France, were killed in Moncton, N.B. on June 4, 2014. (RCMP)
Adams recommended the $1 million penalty be broken down into a $100,000 fine, $500,000 in University of Moncton scholarships based on academic merit and community service ​in the names of the fallen officers and $200,000 for the association Threads of Life, which provides support in cases of workplace injury.

The remainder should include a $150,000 educational trust fund for children of deceased officers, which has already been set up, and a $50,000 donation to Valour Place Military Family Support House in Edmonton, which offers help to RCMP officers, Adams said.

Historic case

The case is considered historic — it was the first time the national police force was sent to trial under the Canada Labour Code for failing to ensure the health and safety of its members.

The force was found not guilty on two other charges regarding whether it prepared supervisors to deal with active shooting situations, and trained front-line members to respond to these kinds of calls.

The judge stayed a fourth charge related to ensuring the health and safety of its members, because he said the first charge encompassed that issue.

The maximum penalty on the guilty charge is $1 million or two years in prison. No individual RCMP manager was named in the charges, however.

Officers who responded to the initial call were defending themselves with duty pistols. (Marc Grandmaison/Canadian Press)

In his Sept. 29 decision, Jackson said the RCMP's approach to the roll-out of carbines was "focused on the odds of an event such as the Moncton murders ever happening, rather than on their duty to ensure the health and safety of its members."

Jackson also said senior managers "paid lip service" to the idea of safety when they came to testify, but he felt they were repeating "talking points" and their "inactions" spoke louder.

The trial spanned from April to July, and heard from 30 witnesses, many of whom said carbines could have made a difference for the officers who faced Bourque.

The defence said money and red tape were important limitations the force was facing in acquiring carbines sooner.

Lawyers haven't said whether they plan to appeal Jackson's decision.

Bourque is serving five life sentences with no chance of parole for 75 years after pleading guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.