The Crown has refused to approve charges in one of the Stanley Cup riot cases because there isn’t enough evidence, a blow to the Vancouver Police Department’s assurances that taking several months to investigate would reduce the likelihood the recommendations would be bounced out of the courts.
Neil MacKenzie, spokesman for the Criminal Justice Branch, said Thursday that the Crown has told police that unless new evidence is found, the case cannot move forward.
“I can’t really get into the specifics when we haven’t approved charges, other than that on that particular case, we considered the available evidence didn’t meet the charge assessment standard,” he said.
Mr. MacKenzie confirmed a report in The Globe and Mail this week that a handful of riot files were sent back to police because they were incomplete. In those cases, the Crown is waiting for police to provide “additional information,” although Mr. MacKenzie did not disclose what it was.
Vancouver police spokesman Sergeant Howard Chow said it’s worth noting that the Crown says only one of the files cannot move forward. Sgt. Chow said police do not consider any of the files to be closed and will decide how to proceed further.
He added that it’s not unheard of for the Crown to return files for clarification. He did not say what information prosecutors were after.
The police force has been much criticized for the pace of its investigation.
Days after the June 15 riot left millions of dollars in damage, police forwarded eight files to the Criminal Justice Branch. The Crown, which in B.C. must approve police charge recommendations, sent them back to the force, saying they were incomplete.
Citing the need to be thorough, Vancouver police didn’t forward any more charge recommendations to the Crown until Oct. 31, four and a half months after the riot. That decision prompted a torrent of criticism.
Chief Jim Chu repeatedly stressed that it was important that police do their investigations right, not fast. When the first 60 charge recommendations were sent to the Crown in October, he told reporters: “We believe the community supports the independence of the police and our professional judgment to conduct thorough investigations, not cut corners in order to satisfy the vocal criticisms of a few.”
Vancouver police had recommended 278 criminal charges against 100 people. The Crown has approved 103 charges against 38 people. The Crown has said it expects to complete its review of the first 60 files by the end of the month.
One of the people charged has entered a guilty plea, while another has signalled the intent to do so. Lawyers for both have said they’ll oppose the Crown’s application to have the court proceedings televised in accordance with a Throne Speech pledge from Premier Christy Clark to do so. Critics have said the broadcast applications will further slow down proceedings at the already overloaded provincial court.
The most recent charges were announced on Wednesday. Among those charged was Duncan Yee, 20, of Surrey. Mr. Yee was the first of the people charged not to face a count of participating in a riot. He was charged with disguise with intent and break and enter.
Mr. MacKenzie said Mr. Yee’s offences are alleged to have occurred in the early hours of June 16, after the riot. The Crown was not satisfied that the evidence supported a charge of participating in a riot, as the police force had recommended.