B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office (IIO) has defended its investigation of the death of Waylon Edey at the hands of RCMP officer Jason Tait, who was found not guilty of manslaughter by a jury in Nelson on Nov. 6 after a six-week trial.
During the trial, Tait’s lawyer David Butcher called the IIO investigator “incompetent” and the investigation “rubbish.” He said the case did not have enough merit to be referred to the Crown for prosecution and he criticized the Crown for accepting it and conducting a trial that cost “millions of dollars.”
The IIO is a provincial civilian agency that investigates incidents in which a person is killed or injured by a police officer.
In an interview with the Nelson Star after the trial, Ronald MacDonald, the chief civilian director of the IIO, pointed out that in a preliminary inquiry in January a provincial court judge decided there was enough evidence to take the case to trial.
Preliminary inquiries are a procedure designed specifically to make sure there is enough evidence to warrant the expense and effort of a trial.
MacDonald disputed Butcher’s accusations and said, “This trial was not about the competence of the IIO investigation. It was about whether or not the officer in this case had breached the criminal law.”
He said the fact that a jury found Tait not guilty should not lead to the conclusion that the case should not have gone to trial.
The provincial Crown office also sent the Star a response to Butcher’s criticism.
Dan McLaughlin said the Crown applies a two-way test to decide whether to approve charges: There must be a substantial likelihood of conviction based on the evidence gathered by the investigating agency, and the prosecution must be in the public interest.
“The [BC Prosecution Service] approved charges in this case after concluding that the charge assessment standard for proceeding with criminal charges was met,” McLaughlin wrote.
“The same standard is applied to all reports to Crown Counsel. While the verdict in this case is not the result the BCPS advocated for, we respect the jury system and the judicial process that supports it.”