Riot website seeks to identify suspects

Vancouver police on defensive over delays

The Vancouver Police Department launched a new website designed to involve the public in identifying riot suspects.



A new website launched Tuesday by the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) to identify Stanley Cup riot suspects is generating dozens of new tips and garnering thousands of hits.

The riot2011.vpd.ca site initially shows 40 suspects, who viewers are invited to identify and provide other details, such as age and current location.

The launch came as VPD Chief Jim Chu again sought to explain the delays in charging suspects in the June 15 riot, including the 42 who have turned themselves in to police.

Just two men have so far been charged from the night of violence downtown, while police in London have already charged more than 1,000 suspects from riots there in early August.

“We’re not pulling our punches, we’re going for the most serious charges we can get,” Chu said Tuesday.

VPD officials said they have the names of more than 1,100 potential riot suspects but need more time to analyze the 1,600 hours of video recorded at the riot.

Chu said he wants as many rioters as possible charged with participating in a riot – a more serious offence than theft or mischief that carries a penalty of up to two years in prison.

Prosecuting someone on a lesser charge now might let them escape justice on the more serious riot charge, he said, because “double jeopardy” prevents someone from being punished twice for the same thing.

“We don’t get two chances at this,” Chu said. “You get one kick at the can.”

He predicted a rush to prosecute will mean more acquittals and lighter sentences for the most serious offenders.

SFU criminology professor Rob Gordon said Chu is correct about double jeopardy after a conviction is made on a lesser count.

But he said there is plenty of scope for Crown to add more serious charges to an indictment after initial ones are laid but before a conviction and sentencing.

“I well understand the police position,” Gordon said. “They don’t want to go ahead with charges and convictions only to discover the person they nailed was in fact responsible for more than they confessed to. It’s a matter of balancing speedy justice with certain justice.”

He said he still doesn’t understand why charges haven’t at least been laid in some of the watertight cases – particularly ones where videos prove rioters torched police cars.

Gordon said the VPD will likely seek to charge and parade all the rioters to court together in a batch.

An independent review on what could have been done to prevent or contain the Vancouver riot is slated for release Thursday. The review is co-chaired by former Vanoc CEO John Furlong.