B.C. man convicted in fatal boat crash awaiting appeal date

Leon Reinbrecht maintains rights breached by delays

  • Jan. 17, 2018 10:40 a.m.

The driver of a speedboat involved in a fatal nighttime collision with a houseboat on Shuswap Lake more than seven years ago is set to make his next appearance in B.C.’s highest court, though a date for the appeal of his 2015 conviction has not been set.

Leon Reinbrecht, now 55, was at the helm of his speedboat on the evening of July 3, 2010, on Magna Bay following a post-Canada Day fireworks display.

Reinbrecht was driving recklessly — witnesses described him doing donuts and speeding near shore on the busy waters — when his vessel collided with a slow-moving houseboat. Reinbrecht’s speedboat ended up inside the houseboat.

Ken Brown, the houseboat’s operator, was killed. Other passengers suffered a variety of injuries.

At trial, Reinbrecht’s lawyers argued Brown’s houseboat was not properly lit.

Reinbrecht stood trial and was convicted in October 2015. Following a series of lengthy constitutional challenges by his lawyers, he was sentenced the following year to three-and-a-half years in federal prison.

It took 17 months from the time of the crash for the Crown to bring charges against Reinbrecht, but that delay did not form part of the defence’s argument. Defence lawyer Joe Doyle argued the 46 months of delay from the time of the charge to conviction was not the fault of his client, a delay he pinned on the courts and Crown. The case had seen one Crown lawyer retire and hand over responsibility to another, while Reinbrecht used three lawyers. Delays were also caused by Reinbrecht’s fight to obtain legal-aid funding and a key Crown witness’s pregnancy.

However, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sheri Donegal, who found Reinbrecht guilty, spent two hours in explaining why she was dismissing the constitutional challenges based on delays.

“There is a societal interest in ensuring accused are tried on their merits,” Donegal said in her decision. “The societal interest in the completion of this trial is high, so when I weigh and balance all these factors, I am satisfied Mr. Reinbrecht’s right to a fair trial has not been infringed in this case.”

An appeal was filed on Reinbrecht’s behalf almost immediately and he was granted bail by the B.C. Court of Appeal four days later. The appeal filed argues Donegal erred when she ruled Reinbrecht’s Charter rights were not breached by delays in prosecution and the trial itself.

A case-management hearing in the B.C. Court of Appeal is scheduled for Jan. 29. An appeal date has not yet been set.

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