Vancouver top cop says Crown will soon approve Cup riot charges

Police recommended 163 charges against 60 suspected rioters

Police Chief Jim Chu says he expects a Crown prosecution team to approve charges against suspected Stanley Cup rioters before the end of next week but wouldn't speculate whether any charges will be rejected.

Chu said the Vancouver Police Department's riot investigation team met with Crown prosecutors Wednesday to discuss the charges. Police recommended 163 charges against 60 suspected rioters for crimes associated with the Stanley Cup riot that erupted downtown June 15.

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"We're confident the vast, vast majority if not all of them will be approved of some sort of charges, but we'll await what Crown decides," Chu said Wednesday after a Vancouver Police Board meeting.

The Courier was unable to reach Neil MacKenzie, a Crown spokesman, who indicated on his voice mail service that he was away from his office until Nov. 21. MacKenzie told reporters at a press conference Oct. 31 that though video evidence related to the charges was expected to be "compelling," the Crown still must "independently and objectively and fairly assess the evidence."

Chu also announced Wednesday that another "batch of charges" will be forwarded to Crown by the end of this month. The chief said there won't be as many charges as the first package sent to Crown but added it will be "substantial."

"When we say batches of charges, it's not often when police make announcements of 100-plus charges or even more than 10 people charged," Chu said. "It doesn't happen that often, so there will be a substantial number coming forward still."

The VPD continues to gather evidence to recommend charges and is still searching for suspects in the riot where people set police cars ablaze, stormed businesses, broke windows and stole merchandise from downtown stores.

The riot erupted after the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. The game was played at Rogers Arena and broadcast on huge screens around the main library on Burrard Street, near the arena.

Prior to Wednesday's police board meeting, the VPD released a poster with photographs of 104 suspected rioters. The Vancouver Police Foundation paid for the 35,000 posters that were to be distributed by 150 volunteers, including police officers. The VPD also posted another 35 new photographs of suspected rioters on its riot-dedicated website.

"We understand that for many residents it seems like the riot was a long time ago, but for the members of the VPD and the victims of that night, it might as well have been yesterday," Chu said at a press conference to release the posters. "Some of our critics have said why bother. We bother because we care. We care about what happened to the victims. We care about what happened to the reputation of our city."

Chu couldn't provide a dollar figure on the cost of the riot investigation or say when police will conclude the probe, which involves officers from the RCMP and other municipal detachments.

"We're going to charge hundreds of people, we think," the chief said. "There will reach a point where we'll probably have the vast, vast majority of people we're after. I can't tell you when that point is right now."

The Crown office hasn't said whether a special court will be set up to hear the riot charges, or how long it will take for suspects to go to trial. On average, Chu told the police board, a suspect can expect to go to trial about one year after making a first appearance in court. If that suspect is in custody, a trial could happen sooner, he added.

mhowell@vancourier.com

Twitter: @Howellings

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