Officer hesitated in charging Hunter

JANE SIMS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

The situation was suspicious: a pickup truck leaving a highrise parking lot and circling the driveway of an adjacent west London church in the middle of the night.

London police Const. Roy Allen, on special duty to investigate criminal activity in the Wonderland Road and Springbank Drive area, followed the truck to the apartment building at around 1 a.m.

But instead of a burglar, he found Dale Hunter, co-owner and Memorial Cup-winning coach of the London Knights hockey club.

Allen said Hunter was out of the truck parked over two spaces.

Allen added he could smell alcohol. Hunter's eyes were bloodshot and he was swaying.

But Allen didn't charge the prominent Londoner right away. Instead he called a supervisor to ask if the case needed "discretion."

The delay to charge Hunter, 46, and other actions by London police on July 24, 2006, breached the popular coach's Charter rights -- including unlawful detention and the right to counsel -- Hunter's lawyer, Patrick Ducharme, argued at Hunter's trial before Ontario Court Justice Deborah Livingstone.

Yesterday, the former NHLer, currently under suspension for five games in the Ontario Hockey League, faced two drunk driving charges stemming from what both the Crown and defence described as a "novel" set of circumstances.

The testimony, a videotape of Hunter's booking and legal arguments focused on the events from the time Hunter was approached by Allen until he gave two breath samples at London police headquarters.

Allen testified Hunter fumbled with his wallet to find his driver's licence.

Allen said he had "enough evidence Mr. Hunter should not have been driving." He also was aware of Hunter's position in the community "and what's he's done with the London Knights.

"In all the circumstances of the matter, I felt I needed a more senior officer to exercise the discretion," he said.

He called Sgt. Norm Ossau, who drove about 10 kilometres to Allen and Hunter. Ossau told Allen the coach should be treated like anyone else.

Hunter, in his testimony, gave a different perspective. He said he had been at a pool party and drank three to four beers over six hours.

He testified he had dropped off a friend at the apartment and was leaving through the church parking lot to sleep at his office, when he turned around to use the friend's washroom.

Hunter said the officer who approached him outside the apartment went back to his unmarked cruiser for 20 minutes, then told him he might be arrested.

It wasn't until after Ossau showed up that Hunter knew he was being charged with impaired driving.

Hunter said he did not believe he was drunk. His face was red, he said, because he had been "taking off the wheat" at his Petrolia farm.

He showed Livingstone his small wallet crammed with cards for himself and the team. He is near-sighted, he said, making it difficult to find his licence.

At the police station, Hunter asked for Sgt. Lynn Sutherland to call Ducharme, a Windsor lawyer who worked with the Hunters and could be contacted at any time.

Hunter had his number on his cellphone and told Sutherland the lawyer would call if he knew Hunter was calling.

Sutherland left the message on the office phone at 2 a.m.-- and didn't call a pager number Hunter said was on the message -- then told the coach if Ducharme didn't call back in 10 minutes, they would move on in the process.

During the videotape, Hunter, in a mint-green golf shirt and shorts, appeared to understand all the questions he was asked. He eventually was in contact "for 30 seconds" with a London lawyer.

His two breath tests showed 159 and 161 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, twice the legal limit.

Livingstone reserved her decision to April 12.


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