NANAIMO — The court case against a Nanaimo-based Mountie was thrown out after the judge said the Crown presented virtually no evidence.
Cst. David Buchanan faced a charge of dangerous driving causing bodily harm after an incident in Duncan on Feb. 20, 2016. The charge was forwarded to the Crown by the Independent Investigations Office after examining dashcam footage from Cst. Buchanan's vehicle as he apprehended Bryce McKay in Duncan following a brief chase.
The Honourable Justice Justine Saunders dismissed the case against Buchanan at the preliminary hearing stage on Aug. 22 at Provincial Court in Nanaimo. Saunders said there wasn't enough evidence in either dashcam footage or testimony from McKay to support a trial.
The facts of the case showed Buchanan was in an unmarked SUV on Feb.20. He then followed a moped, driven by McKay, after it sped by without licence plates and then blew through a stop sign before turning the wrong way.
Buchanan turned on his lights and sirens, prompting McKay to pull a U-turn into a parking lot. McKay went over a curb and fell off the moped before getting back on. While speeding away, he hit a fire hydrant and broke his ankle.
Crown lawyer Lauren Chu argued Buchanan's driving during the ordeal was “dangerous to the public in all the circumstances and...amounted to a marked departure from the standard of care which a reasonable person would have exercised in the same circumstances.”
Chu said the chase, which happened over roughly 1.2 kilometres and was described as a “slow speed pursuit” by a fellow officer on the witness stand, was disproportionate to the threat posed by McKay not having a licence on the back of the moped.
Cpl. Jean Gelderbom, who was watch commander that night, confirmed while testifying there was no traffic or pedestrians in the well-lit area where the incident occurred.
Justice Saunders said the Crown “failed to call any evidence, let alone some evidence” to support their claims.
“The video does not indicate that the accused failed to foresee the risk caused by his actions, nor does it show a marked departure from the standard of care required,” the written decision said.
McKay was called to the stand, though much of his testimony was asked to be disregarded by Chu, who'd called him to the stand in the first place.
He alleged Buchanan hit the moped with the SUV numerous times and said “he was forcing me, nowhere else to go, would have been squished.”
Justice Saunders didn't believe him however, writing “His evidence in chief is not consistent with the video in all material respects....there is no reliable Crown evidence that there was a collision.”
McKay is currently awaiting trial on three charges stemming from the incident: dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, flight from a peace officer and possession of stolen property under $5,000. He has a lengthy criminal history.
Buchanan's lawyer Ravi Hira told NanaimoNewsNOW he questioned why the case against a decorated RCMP officer made it as far as a preliminary hearing with such little evidence. He also criticized the Independent Investigations Office for forwarding charges to the Crown in the matter.
Ron MacDonald, the chief civilian director of the office, told NanaimoNewsNOW the matter was forwarded to the Crown before his tenure at the head of the organization. He said at the time in early 2016 the threshold for charges was relatively low whereas charges are now recommended when the office is confident they will be approved by the Crown.
“I absolutely recognize the significance of a referral to the Crown and as a result, the reality has been we've made the decision on many more cases to not refer to the Crown than in the past,” he said.
Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel with the BC Prosecution Service, said they are “carefully reviewing” Saunders' decision to determine their next steps.
In 2016, Cst. Buchanan was given an award of valour for his part in arresting Nanaimo mill shooter Kevin Addison during the 2014 incident.
Buchanan is currently with the Integrated Road Safety Unit, the group he was with at the time of the incident in 2016.
On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit
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