RCMP escorted a houseboat

RCMP escorted a houseboat

Houseboat trial: ‘Loyalty to the Crown’ made cop meddle in defence case

The trial of a man accused of recklessly driving his speedboat into a houseboat on Shuswap Lake in 2010 has ground to a halt.

  • Apr. 20, 2015 6:00 p.m.

By Tim Petruk, Kamloops This Week

The B.C. Supreme Court trial of a man accused of recklessly driving his speedboat into a houseboat on Shuswap Lake in 2010 has ground to a halt to allow lawyers to investigate claims a police officer meddled this week in the defence case out of “loyalty to the Crown” — something the judge called “concerning.”

Leon Reinbrecht’s trial on one count each of criminal negligence causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm has been ongoing since early February.

Ken Brown was killed in a July 3, 2010, collision on Shuswap Lake following a post-Canada Day fireworks display. Brown was at the helm of a 14-metre houseboat when it was struck nearly head-on by a speedboat.

RCMP Cpl. Richard Harry spent three days this week giving evidence for the Crown. He is an expert in marine-vessel collisions and was one of the investigators dispatched to the wreckage of the 2010 crash.

During his cross-examination of Harry, defence lawyer Joe Doyle found out the officer placed a phone call on Wednesday to a Canadian Coast Guard supervisor to inquire about a defence witness.

Justin Beaumont is an employee of the Canadian Coast Guard and is also an expert in marine accident reconstruction. He has been retained by Reinbrecht’s defence team to give expert evidence later in the trial.

Harry was asked during cross-examination why he phoned the Coast Guard.

“In his [Harry’s] view, Mr. Beaumont owed a duty of loyalty to the Crown and should not be testifying in opposition to the Crown,” B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sheri Donegan said.

“I will say, on it’s face, it is concerning.”

Donegan ordered Harry to disclose summaries of all conversations he has had about Beaumont, as well as all materials in the possession of the RCMP’s West Coast Marine Service section in relation to the Shuswap Lake boat crash.

In court, Doyle raised the prospect of having all of Harry’s evidence tossed depending on what comes to light.

The trial is slated to resume April 22 to give lawyers enough time to comb through the new disclosure.