A sentencing hearing for the RCMP begins Thursday at the Moncton courthouse, after the force was found guilty of not providing proper guns to its officers in time for June 4, 2014.
A judge ruled in September that carbine rifles could have made a difference the night three officers died and two others were wounded at the hands of a lone, heavily armed gunman, and that the organization “limped along” on the issue.
The force was found not guilty on two other charges to do with whether it prepared supervisors to deal with active shooting situations, and trained frontline members to respond to these kinds of calls.
The case is being 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.
Carbine rifles, and why the Moncton officers didn’t have them the night of the shooting, have been at the centre of the trial. (CBC)
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.
In his Sept. 29 decision, Judge Leslie Jackson ruled the force had left its members “ill-prepared” to deal with an attacker like Justin Bourque when it planned for the introduction of carbines.
“It’s clear that their approach to the roll-out 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,” he had written.
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)
Jackson also said senior managers “paid lip service” to the ideal of safety when they came to testify, but he felt they were repeating “talking points” and their “inactions” spoke louder.
If the force had really been concerned about health and safety on the front lines, it would have “prioritized” the roll-out of patrol carbines and not left it to the vagaries of funding.
The trial spanned from April to July, and heard from 30 witnesses, with the bulk of testimony focusing on the issue of carbines, and why the Moncton officers didn’t have them the night of the shooting, and instead were defending themselves using duty pistols.
Officers who responded to the initial call were defending themselves with duty pistols. (Marc Grandmaison/Canadian Press)
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.
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