By Tim Petruk, Kamloops This Week
A B.C. Supreme Court judge has upheld the convictions of a man who recklessly drove his speedboat into a houseboat in July 2010, killing the houseboat’s driver, despite the fact it took nearly five years for the charges to get to trial.
Leon Reinbrecht’s lawyers argued his convictions should be tossed due to delay, but B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sheri Donegan dismissed that application on Wednesday.
“There is a societal interest in ensuring accused are tried on their merits,” Donegan said in her decision, which took two hours to read.
“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.”
In October of last year, Donegan found Reinbrecht guilty of criminal negligence causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm in connection to the July 3, 2010, crash in Magna Bay that left houseboat operator Ken Brown dead at the scene and at least five people injured.
Donegan ruled Reinbrecht was operating his speedboat recklessly at night after post-Canada Day fireworks when he crashed into the slow-moving houseboat. Reinbrecht’s speedboat ended up completely inside the houseboat.
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 is not the fault of his client, a delay he pinned on the courts and Crown.
The case has seen one Crown lawyer retire and hand over responsibility to another. Reinbrecht is on his third lawyer. Delays were also caused by Reinbrecht’s fight to obtain legal-aid funding and the pregnancy of a key Crown witness.
Donegan found that Reinbrecht suffered some prejudice as a result of the delays, but said society’s interest in the case carried more weight.
Members of Brown’s family were present for the decision and they expressed relief after it was read.
“Every time we get together as a family, this is what we talk about – the next court date,” said Patti Oliver, Brown’s sister.
“He’s alive. Ken is not. People are suffering from this and still are. So, if he suffers, so be it.”
Oliver said she’d like to see Reinbrecht punished to the full extent of the law.
“The full amount of time, which we understand is about three years,” she said. “He can’t walk away from this.”
Lawyers are slated to return to court on May 31 to make sentencing submissions.
Reinbrecht is not in custody.