A Kamloops RCMP officer was given a conditional discharge Wednesday after pleading guilty to an attempt to obstruct justice.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Powers told Const. Ryan Sheremetta that he will have to report to a probation officer for six months and pay a victim's surcharge fine of $100.
Crown prosecutor Cheryl Wagner had sought a two-year suspended sentence as appropriate, citing the principles of denunciation and deterrence. Acting as defence, Neville McDougall argued primarily for an absolute discharge, noting that Sheremetta had pleaded guilty and already suffered personal consequences.
The case arose from an early morning altercation in which Sheremetta was involved in while off-duty after attending a Billy Talent concert on March 7, 2010.
As a downtown bar cleared out, shouting turned into a shoving match and another man intervened, knocking Sheremetta to the ground. Const. Don Bray, an on-duty RCMP officer, responded and observed Sheremetta punch the intervener. All involved were intoxicated. (An initial second count of assault against Sheremetta was stayed when it was found that he was not the instigator.)
At this point, the attending officer, a rookie who knew Sheremetta as a more senior colleague on the force, placed him in his patrol car in order to drive him home. That was when Sheremetta attempted to obstruct justice by casually suggesting that the officer not identify him in the incident report. In effect, he was asking a junior officer to falsify a report, Wagner said in her case summary.
"He certainly felt pressured to perhaps not complete the report as he was obliged to do," Powers said.
The on-duty officer attempted to stop the conversation at that point by telling Sheremetta an RCMP corporal had seen him in the police car.
"I am satisfied it was a spur of the moment, unprecedented action by Const. Sheremetta," Powers said in delivering the sentence. "Unfortunately, like many instances of bad judgment, it just led to worse consequences."
Later that day, Bray received a Facebook message from Sheremetta, who was trying to determine whether he'd face detachment discipline. Powers did not consider that, or a later pop-up note Sheremetta sent, to be part of the obstruction charge, although the officer had been instructed not to contact Bray by the time the note was sent.
Case law involving other police officers played a major part in the judge's sentencing.
McDougall pointed out that Sheremetta had suffered embarrassment through the notoriety of a case in Vanderhoof in 2003, when he fatally shot a robber. He was cleared in a coroner's inquest of any wrongdoing in that case, but the media attention had dogged him then and throughout this case, he said.
"This is what he's been submitted to on a continual basis," McDougall said.
Powers said he accepted that the case represented bad judgment and that the officer had suffered personal and professional consequences, including an RCMP disciplinary panel.
Suspended with pay for six months, Sheremetta has since returned to duty but is not eligible for promotion for another two years as a result of the panel's ruling. The judge rejected the idea of adding community service hours since Sheremetta already volunteers in the community. He also found that a letter of apology to Const. Bray was not necessary.