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Drinking wasn't meant to obstruct justice, B.C. Mountie says

RCMP Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson arrives at the B.C. Supreme Court, Monday, February 13, 2012.

Rafal Gerszak For The Globe and Mail/rafal gerszak The Globe and Mail

An off-duty RCMP officer accused of obstructing justice in a fatal motorcycle accident says he downed two shots of vodka immediately afterward to comfort himself, not to thwart the investigation.

Corporal Monty Robinson, 41, said Tuesday that he drove his children home from the crash site in October, 2008, got them settled upstairs and then drank the alcohol.

The Mountie told his B.C. Supreme Court trial that he didn't know what he was thinking at the time, but went behind his bar to get what had given him comfort in the past.

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Cpl. Robinson, who showed little expression, said he wasn't concerned about being charged if he were stopped for impaired driving even though he'd drank five beers at a Halloween party he'd attended with his kids.

Crown lawyer Kris Pechet has accused Cpl. Robinson of lying to police and minimizing the amount of liquor he consumed before the crash that killed 21-year-old Orion Hutchinson at a Delta, B.C., intersection.

Cpl. Robinson said that despite having five beers over four hours up until about a half-hour before leaving the party, he didn't intentionally mislead the officers who arrived at the crash scene.

"It never entered your mind the police would perhaps smell the beer on your breath and you would be investigated for impaired driving?" Mr. Pechet asked.

"No," Cpl. Robinson replied.

"None of that worried you, even though you had been drinking and then were involved in an accident. You didn't feel you were in jeopardy of anything?"

"No," Cpl. Robinson said again.

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Under earlier questioning by his lawyer, Cpl. Robinson said he didn't know why he went home and consumed alcohol after the crash.

"I wasn't thinking. I went for what has given me comfort. It was a letdown – a body letdown," Cpl. Robinson said.

Mr. Pechet told court that Cpl. Robinson was a high-ranking officer with 12 years' experience, had taken 42 courses to upgrade his training and had endured three stressful and serious police incidents in his career.

He was also an undercover operator and had ample knowledge of how blood-alcohol testing worked, Mr. Pechet said.

"As people in society go, you're a pretty tough guy mentally, and by that I mean you're an experienced police officer who's seen a lot of death, destruction and crummy, awful things," Mr. Pechet said. "You've been able to carry on through your career and, according to the evidence as I understand it, come away from all the psychiatric evaluations still fit for duty."

Mr. Pechet said Cpl. Robinson had also proven his ability to control his alcohol consumption.

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"And this person, this snapshot we now have of you … this is the person who, you tell us, went without thinking. You just went for a drink?" Mr. Pechet said.

"Yes," replied Cpl. Robinson.

He could not recall any details around the moments his Jeep collided with Mr. Hutchinson's motorcycle.

Court heard that Cpl. Robinson's first memory of the crash was his son's elevated voice, and checking to see if his kids were injured.

After leaving his car, Cpl. Robinson went only close enough to the victim to see that bystanders were tending to him.

Cpl. Robinson said his training had allowed him to perform first aid on car-crash victims several times in the past but he did not attempt any that time.

Instead, he handed his driver's licence to an onlooker, took his children from the car and walked them two blocks home.

Then he drank the vodka.

Court heard that Cpl. Robinson then returned to the accident scene, where he identified himself to a police officer as the driver she was seeking.

She arrested Cpl. Robinson – who did not say he was a Mountie – a short time later for impaired driving causing death.

The charge did not stick.

The judge-alone trial has heard that three years before the accident, Cpl. Robinson took a course where he learned people could escape a drunk driving charge by consuming alcohol after a crash.

A friend of Cpl. Robinson has already testified that the officer told guests at a party about a year earlier that drinking liquor would mess up readings on a breathalyzer test.

She also testified he'd said that drivers who leave their licence at a crash scene won't be charged for fleeing.

Cpl. Robinson has denied making those statements.

In concluding his questioning, Mr. Pechet asked Cpl. Robinson whether he knew police would not be able to conduct a proper breathalyzer test after he'd swallowed the vodka.

"Yes," Cpl. Robinson said.

Court has heard that three separate work-related incidents led Cpl. Robinson to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, which prompted him to drink heavily.

He said he began drinking more frequently after the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in October, 2007, when he was shocked with a Taser deployed by one of four Mounties who responded to the man's erratic behaviour.

Cpl. Robinson was the senior officer among the group.

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