EDMONTON – A provincial court judge must decide who to believe — an Edmonton MP who claims police botched his arrest and smeared his character, or officers who say the politician refused a roadside breath test.
Peter Goldring, 68, admits he had some wine at a Christmas party then a quick beer at a pub before police pulled him over in Edmonton in 2011.
There are two versions what happened next.
Defence lawyer Dino Bottos said Tuesday during the trial’s closing arguments that the first officer at the scene screwed up and arrested Goldring before demanding a breath sample.
Bottos said when the officer then realized Goldring was a federal politician, he called in a supervisor and the pair tried to “re-do” the arrest.
Crown prosecutor Laura Marr argued that the two experienced and professional police officers performed the arrest by the book. She said Goldring attempted to “filibuster” or delay the arrest by refusing to get out of his locked vehicle and answer police.
“It’s a 12-minute refusal in which he will not answer the question: `Will you comply?'”
Bottos said his client did not refuse to give a breath sample, he was simply thinking of his options when he was pulled over and dealing with police.
“He was simply asking relevant questions about why he was being stopped and the police’s power to demand this sample and Mr. Goldring, just like any other citizen, didn’t know all of his rights and responsibilities and in fact, he had a right to be told the answers to his questions.”
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Judge Larry Anderson said he expects to have a decision on the case next month.
Goldring, MP for Edmonton East since 1997, stepped aside from the Conservative caucus pending the outcome of the court case and currently sits as an Independent.
He has long been a critic of random breathalyzers and Checkstops. Outside court, Goldring said he plans to press the government to make changes to the law that allows police to demand breath tests.
“There’s definitely clarity needed,” he said. “I’m putting forward a list of recommendations. I’ll be talking to the lawmakers about some of the scenarios from this.
“This is about civil liberties. It’s not just about my civil liberties, it’s about your civil liberties, too.”
Goldring wasn’t specific on what changes he’d like to see. But during the hearing, the judge questioned how much time a driver should get to mull over a demand for a breath test before police consider his indecision a refusal.
“At what point does the driver become a criminal?”
Goldring earlier testified that he had sipped one or two glasses of wine during the party at a Ukrainian centre in his riding. He said his throat was dry from talking with so many people, so on the way home he popped into a pub for a cold beer.
He said he downed it within five minutes then got into his pickup truck. As soon as he drove out of the parking lot, police pulled him over.
Goldring told the court that the officer immediately told him he was under arrest. Goldring then agreed to a breath test but was told to wait 15 minutes because he had just had alcohol.
Goldring testified the officer waited only five minutes and was concerned it was too soon to blow into the machine. He said the officer repeatedly refused his request to call a lawyer.
Const. Trevor Shelrud testified Goldring was belligerent, announced he was a member of Parliament and pleaded to be let go. He said he did not immediately place Goldring under arrest because he was waiting for a supervisor.
Sgt. Conrad Moschanksy testified that when he arrived at the scene he asked Goldring over and over again if he would take a breath test. The officer said he only needed a yes or no, but the politician never answered.
The officer said Goldring rambled on by asking questions, such as how many drinks it would take to blow over .08, the legal driving limit.
Moschanksy said it was clear Goldring wasn’t going to take the breath test so he reached his arm through the driver’s window, unlocked the truck, pulled out the MP and put him in handcuffs.
Police said the cuffs left Goldring with a small cut. Goldring testified the cuffs ripped off a chunk of his flesh and left his wrist covered in blood. He later underwent medical tests to ensure he hadn’t contracted any diseases.