VANCOUVER (NEWS1130)– An accused rioter captured on video smashing windows has no memory of joining the mob scene in downtown Vancouver, a court has heard at the first trial for the hundreds of people charged in the melee after the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup.
Spencer Kirkwood pleaded not guilty to charges that brought him before a BC provincial court judge, unlike 110 others so far who have admitted guilt, many of them already sentenced for their crimes on June 15, 2011.
BC NDP Justice Critic Leonard Krog says this proves our court system is still plagued by delays, particularly in criminal court cases.
“The delays have occurred, you can’t go back and fix it now. I would hope that this government will finally start to realize that these delays have real consequences. Justice is not done when commission of a crime is only dealt with a year and a half or two years down the road from the date of the commission of the crime,” says Krog.
Krog says the premier made too many empty promises for timely prosecution when it came to the riots.
“The fact that some have plead guilty only means that charges were laid, people chose to take responsibility for their actions but it still took a very long time to get to that stage.”
A Crown lawyer told court Monday that Kirkwood doesn’t dispute he was at the riot or appeared in video showing him using a street barricade to smash glass at an office building, but that he later gave a police statement describing a huge gap in his memory of what happened that night.
Kirkwood, 26, drank beer and other alcohol at a friend’s home and emerged after the game to see smoke rising from the downtown core, court heard.
He remembers commenting on the riot.
“The next day he woke up and didn’t recall anything else,” said Crown lawyer Patti Tomasson.
Kirkwood was sporting a green T-shirt with a white hockey stick logo and jeans when he helped break windows at the Telus building, at a cost of $10,337 to replace, said Tomasson, reading from an agreed statement of facts.
Two days later, Kirkwood phoned 911 after receiving a threatening phone call from an anonymous man who had apparently spotted him in video that had been posted online.
“He was scared,” Tomasson said.
The next day Kirkwood went to police to give a statement.
Kirkwood was charged in late November 2011 with participating in a riot and mischief.
In May 2012, he was pulled over in the wee hours of the morning by a police officer for allegedly running a red light. He told the officer he hadn’t been drinking, the Crown said, but two tests at the station found alcohol in his blood.
He was arrested and charged with breach of bail.
“That must be from the riot, my all of 45-second involvement,” Kirkwood apparently told the officer, she said.
Tomasson called a senior Vancouver police officer as the first witness, and Kirkwood appeared to listen attentively as the “public order co-ordinator” spent more than an hour setting the scene.
Staff Sgt. Lee Patterson described the rising tension in the boisterous crowd of mostly young, drunk men involved in what turned into “pandemonium.”
“They had become a mob,” he told court. “There were people with hatred in their eyes.”
Patterson did not specifically describe any interaction with Kirkwood, but was asked how the crowd reacted when windows were broken.
“It gives a shot of excitement to the crowd, a trophy for achievement.”
Kirkwood’s lawyer, Jonathan Waddington, would not say whether his client, dressed in a suit and striped tie, would appear as a witness later in the trial.
“A number of matters were admitted,” he said outside court. “We admit riot, a number of matters aren’t controversial. But he’s entitled to have this matter tested and he’s presumed innocent.”
Thousands of people rocked the city’s downtown after the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins in Game 7.
Cars were flipped and set ablaze, stores were looted and dozens of fights broke out. Police used tear gas and riot gear to disperse the crowds about five hours after the brawl began.
Police have recommended charges against 315 suspected rioters, and the Crown has so far charged 173 people in the massive police investigation that includes thousands of hours of video evidence.