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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Canada to Punish Drunk Driving Diplomats

OTTAWA, Canada - Canada's foreign ministry admitted Wednesday it had badly mishandled the case of a drunk Russian diplomat whose car struck and killed an Ottawa woman, and vowed to crack down on drunk driving by foreign envoys.

Foreign Minister John Manley said that, had internal ministry procedures been better, Andrei Knyazev would have been banned from driving long before the Jan. 27 accident which killed lawyer Catherine MacLean and badly injured her friend Catherine Dore.

Manley said sloppy paperwork, poor liaison within the ministry and policy shortcomings had prevented officials from realizing Knyazev was a chronic dangerous driver.

"I am saddened and angered by evidence that deficiencies in handling Andrei Knyazev after his previous encounters with the police may have contributed to the tragic accident Jan. 27," Manley told a news conference.

"The system that so tragically failed Catherine MacLean and Catherine Dore will be changed and improved. Changes are being made now," he added, unveiling a policy to crack down on diplomats found driving while drunk.

Under the new rules, any diplomat found driving while drunk will have their license suspended for a year.

"A second offense, or a first offense involving death or injury, will automatically result in the diplomat's recall or expulsion," Manley said.

Russia refused to waive Knyazev's diplomatic immunity after the crash and recalled him to Moscow. He was then fired and Moscow police said they would charge him under Russian law.

Canadian officials originally said police had twice investigated Knyazev for impaired driving in the two years leading up to the fatal crash.

But an internal report commissioned by Manley showed the diplomat had been involved in two further traffic incidents that police did not tell the ministry about.

The report also showed that, although a Canadian foreign ministry official had warned the Russian embassy about Knyazev's record in 1999, no one followed up the case.

"What really went wrong with Knyazev was there could have been the identification of the fact that a pattern had emerged here," Manley said.

"Someone should have said 'There's something wrong and action absolutely must to be taken'. But it never went to a very high level (in the ministry)."

Manley said no foreign ministry officials would be disciplined over the affair, saying it was clear that policies and not people were to blame.

Catherine Dore's husband Phillip welcomed the new tougher policy on drunk-driving, but said he could not believe that Knyazev had been allowed to keep driving.

"My main concern now is with what I'm starting to find out about how this man was allowed to continue driving on the Ottawa streets after his first two incidents with the police force. I'm very upset about that," he told CBC television.

Bill Casey of the opposition Conservative Party said Manley's new policy would help protect lives.

He also demanded that Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin explain why he had not dealt with Knyazev more harshly. No one at the Russian embassy was available for comment.

The incident has some parallels with a fatal accident in Washington D.C., in early 1997, when Georgian diplomat Gueorgui Makharadze killed a teenager in an alcohol-related car crash.

In that case, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze waived the diplomat's immunity and Makharadze received a seven-to-21 year prison term in the United States for manslaughter. He was released last year to finish his sentence in Georgia.