The West Shore RCMP officer that was the subject of a police watchdog organization’s investigation that was a result of the crash that killed Const. Sarah Beckett will not be charged. (Gazette file photo)

Clear statement issued for officer involved in Beckett crash

Charges of dangerous driving, dangerous driving causing death and obstruction of justice not proven

Three charges were consider against the West Shore RCMP officer who attempted to stop Kenneth Jacob Fenton leading up to the fatal crash on April 5, 2016.

Those charges were dangerous driving contrary to s. 249(1)(a) of the Criminal Code, dangerous driving causing death and obstruction of justice.

However, the B.C. Prosecution Service announced earlier this week that no charges have been approved against the officer in question.

According to a clear statement that was released Friday, Crown must be able to demonstrate through admissible evidence that the subject officer committed each offence, and that the evidence proves the mental element required for each offence.

That evidence included interviews with numerous witnesses – most of whom attended the scene of the crash after the collision – as well as recordings of dispatch conversations, radio communication, video evidence, audio recordings, accident reconstruction reports and GPS data from the police vehicles.

During the early morning hours of April 5, 2016, two RCMP officers, one of which was Const. Sarah Beckett, were investigating a possible break and enter in progress in Langford at approximately 2:50 a.m. on April 5. The officers finished their investigation and left the scene in two separate vehicles.

The other officer encounter the Dodge Ram pickup truck driven by Fenton on Brock Avenue and followed him south on Peatt Road. The officer noted that Fenton’s tail lights were out. At that time, the officer was travelling at about 55 km/h. The posted limited on Brock Avenue and Peatt Road is 50 km/h.

The officer activated his light bar, but Fenton’s truck accelerated after passing a crosswalk roughly 200 metres north of Goldstream Avenue. According to an accident reconstruction report, it is estimated that Fenton was travelling at a speed of 82 to 90 km/h. Just prior to the crash, GPS data from the officer’s vehicle indicated he was travelling roughly 64 km/h.

According to an eye witness statement the officer had his lights on when the vehicle turned off of Brock Avenue but did not have his siren activated. The witnesses stated the officer was not pursing Fenton, just following him.

Fenton entered the Peatt Road and Goldstream Avenue intersection on a red light and collided with the police cruiser being driven by Beckett. She died as a result of injuries sustained in the crash and Fenton was sentence to four years in prison on Friday after pleading guilty to driving offences under the Criminal Code.

As a result of her death the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) launched an investigation into the crash, focusing on the actions of the officer that attempted to stop Fenton. The IIO submitted a report to Crown counsel back in February of this year.

After reviewing that report, and all of the available evidence in the case, the B.C. Prosecution Service release a clear statement Friday afternoon, following the conclusion of Fenton’s sentencing. That statement noted: “The available evidence does not support the conclusion that the officer drove in a manner that was dangerous to the public … There is no evidence that he actually engaged in a pursuit of the Fenton vehicle.”

Since the dangerous driving offence could not be proven beyond doubt, the more aggravated offence of dangerous driving causing death also could not be proven.

As for the obstruction of justice charge, the statement noted, “there are unexplained discrepancies between the officer’s account of the incident and other available evidence. However there is no direct evidence to prove that the officer wilfully made false statements that he knew would tend to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice.”

katie@goldstreamgazette.com