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Mountie's lawyer argues arresting officer's testimony should not be considered

RCMP Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson arrives at the B.C. Supreme Court to set a date after re-electing for a judge alone trial on charges of obstruction of justice in New Westminster, British Columbia, Monday, February 13, 2012.

Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail/rafal gerszak The Globe and Mail

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

Corporal Monty Robinson is facing a second round of high-profile accusations: A year before the motorcycle accident, Cpl. 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.

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

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"She ought to have warned him," Mr. Crossin said of Constable Sarah Swallow, the Delta, B.C., police officer who arrested Cpl. 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. Swallow testified Tuesday Cpl. Robinson wasn't at the accident site when she arrived, but he appeared a few minutes later.

A man walking his dog saw the aftermath of the crash between Cpl. Robinson's Jeep and Orion Hutchinson's motorcycle.

Const. Swallow told court the man had Cpl. Robinson's driver's licence and told Const. Swallow the driver of the Jeep said he was taking his children home and would be back.

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

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Const. Swallow said Cpl. Robinson smelled of alcohol, was slurring his words and appeared to have had more to drink that 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."

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

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

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

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Mr. Pechet said Crown witnesses will say Cpl. 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.

Const. Swallow said she arrested Cpl. 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 Cpl. 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.

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

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