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Police review of Langley RCMP shooting criticized

Donald Sorochan - Langley Times / File
Donald Sorochan
— image credit: Langley Times / File

The lawyer who is suing the Langley RCMP for fatally shooting Alvin Wright is questioning a Vancouver Police Department (VPD) investigation that cleared the Mounties of criminal wrongdoing.

Donald Sorochan said it was "alarming" that the VPD decided not to send their report to a Crown prosecutor for review.

"It should be automatic," Sorochan said.

"Otherwise, we aren't operating under the rule of law, we're operating under the rule of police."

On Wednesday (Nov. 2)  VPD said it's investigation "concluded that there were no reasonable grounds to believe a criminal offence was committed by any member of the RCMP in relation to this incident and the file was not forwarded to Crown Counsel."

On behalf of Wright's spouse and his estate, Sorochan is suing six as-yet unnamed RCMP officers over the Aug. 6, 2010 fatal shooting inside the bedroom of the two-storey townhouse on the southeast corner of 53 Avenue and 203 Street where the 22-year-old Wright (pictured below) lived with his common-law wife and their infant daughter.

The Vancouver lawyer, a former special prosecutor, said he doesn't have a problem with police investigating police so long as there is an independent review of the facts.

In police-involved cases where someone does or suffers serious injury, the investigators should not have the option of simply refusing to send their report to the prosecutors who decide whether to lay charges, Sorochan said.

"That's fine for a couple of neighbours squabbling, or kids shoplifting [not for something this serious]."

He hasn't been given the VPD report yet.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) issued a statement Thursday saying the Wright case demonstrates the lack of equality between people who live in RCMP-policed communities and those with municipal police forces who are under the authority of the B.C. police complaints commissioner.

“If Mr. Wright had been shot and killed in Vancouver, any criminal investigation of police that recommended no charges would [still] be reviewed by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner,” said BCCLA president Robert Holmes.

“However, because he lived in Langley, which is serviced by the RCMP, police decisions about not charging other police officers will end up with no review.”

"That situation exists because bureaucrats in Victoria and Ottawa cannot figure out how to do what common sense demands and commissions of inquiry have recommended," Holmes added.

The BCCLA has written Solicitor General and Acting Attorney General Shirley Bond to ask her to intervene in the matter and direct prosecutors to review the Wright file.

"Given recent history and public inquiries that have recommended real reforms, the public will take the continuation of this absurd state of affairs as yet another sign that those in charge either don’t know what they’re doing or don’t care," Holmes said.

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