Monty Robinson sentence should be appealed
VANCOUVER SUN AUGUST 2, 2012
Former RCMP officer Monty Robinson is a free man, though one can make a very strong case that he shouldn't be.
Four years ago, Robinson was driving a vehicle that collided with a motorcycle, killing its rider. But rather than remain at the scene, Robinson went home and consumed two shots of vodka, which, he said, was to calm his nerves.
But of course the vodka could have masked the five beers he had consumed before the collision. And as B.C. Supreme Court Justice Janice Dillon found Robinson intentionally tried to cover up his previous alcohol consumption, she convicted him of obstruction of justice.
So far so good. But at sentencing, Dillon rejected the Crown attorney's recommendation that Robinson be jailed for three to nine months, and instead imposed a one-year conditional sentence with one month of house arrest.
Dillon cited a number of factors why she declined to send Robinson to jail, but the one that is receiving the lion's share of attention concerns Robin-son's aboriginal background. Specifically, Dillon said that she considered Robinson's ethnic background in fashioning a non-custodial sentence. While this has provoked outrage in the community, with people charging that aboriginal status now amounts to a get-out-of-jail-free card, it's clear that Robinson's ethnicity is only one factor among many that influenced Dillon's decision.
Furthermore, Dillon was required by law to consider Robinson's aboriginal status. In 1996, Parliament passed an amendment to the Criminal Code that requires sentencing judges to look for alternatives to imprisonment "with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders."
The amendment was motivated by evidence that aboriginals are grossly overrepresented in the prison sys-tem. Furthermore, given evidence that aboriginals were more likely to be denied bail and to
receive longer sentences than non-aboriginals, the amendment was also intended to remedy the effects of institutional racism.
But as the Supreme Court of Canada held in R. v. Gladue, judges are also expected to consider systemic and background factors of aboriginals in order to craft appropriate sentences. Now while this might result in aboriginals receiving lighter sentences, in certain situations, than non-aboriginals, the Supreme Court also emphasized that the amendment "should not be taken as requiring an automatic reduction of sentence, or a remission of a warranted period of incarceration, simply because the offender is aboriginal."
So if Dillon chose not to impose on Robinson a custodial sentence, which was surely warranted, solely because of his aboriginal status, then she erred. But there's no evidence she did so.
Rather, according to Dillon, other factors militating against incarceration included the fact that Robin-son was a first-time offender, and as a police officer, he would have to be held in protective custody if he were sent to jail.
So for Dillon, Robinson's being a police officer worked against imposing a custodial sentence. And this is where the problem lies. For Robinson's status as a cop should really amount to an aggravating factor - after all, the police are responsible for administering justice, yet justice is precisely what Robinson obstructed. It is therefore a very serious matter when a cop obstructs justice. And this alone should weigh very heavily in favour of incarceration. Furthermore, as Dillon detailed, there were other aggravating factors, including the fact that Robinson never showed any remorse, nor did he accept responsibility for his actions.
Altogether then, Robinson's status and his actions cry out for a jail sentence. And Dillon's sentence cries out for an appeal.
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