The handcuffs had been removed, but Robert Belbin was still restrained by leg irons as he sat on a bench in front of Provincial Court Judge James Walsh on Wednesday. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary had charged the 21-year-old man with aggravated assault stemming from a stabbing incident on George Street in 2022.
Judge James Walsh said the RNC evidence put Robert Belbin at the scene of a fight, but nothing more. On the charge of aggravated assault Judge Walsh said, “Not guilty.” The Judge, however, accepted the evidence of another young man, Thomas Barnes, that he had been “attacked from behind” on George Street and Judge Walsh found Robert Belbin guilty of common assault.
The 2022 fight on George Street was followed by gunfire incidents at Thomas Barnes’ Paradise residence, Robert Belbin’s Thorburn Road residence, and the Baker Street home of Robert Belbin’s grandparents where he sometimes stayed. The RNC said those incidents and a subsequent attempted murder in the Goulds were attributed to a “criminal network.”
As he left the courtroom Robert Belbin was asked if Thomas Barnes had been “attacked from behind.” Flanked by two sheriff’s officers the young man said, “No.” Asked if he was part of a “criminal network,” Belbin said, “I’m not part of a criminal organization in any way.”
At the time of the 2022 investigation, RNC Constable James Cadigan said, “Our officers are working tirelessly to gather information to provide the opportunity to lay charges and for these people to face the court.” So far, the information they gathered in their investigation has yielded a conviction of common assault in a George Street fight.
Robert Belbin’s troubles are far from over. According to one lawyer the common assault conviction makes it less likely that Robert Belbin will get bail on the much more serious charge of murder that he is facing. The murder charge stems from an incident in February of this year on Mayor Avenue where a young man, Seamus Secord, was killed. Since his arrest in February, Robert Belbin has been in custody in the rodent-infested, Forest Road penitentiary for more than 200 days and a trial could be months away.
Long gone are the more innocent times, like his Nan’s birthday party a couple of years ago. The man behind Carolyn Belbin in the photo is her late husband, Calvin. Calvin Belbin was the Assistant Superintendent of Education for the Labrador West Integrated School Board. According to his obituary, he retired the year his grandson Robert was born in 2001. Calvin Belbin’s obituary also notes that, “Robert was always with his Pop and they had an extra special connection.”
The birthday photo was taken in Carolyn and Calvin’s Baker Street home in St. John’s. In 2022 someone fire-bombed their home and the RNC found evidence of what they said was, “damage consistent with gunshots.”
There was a time not too long ago when RNC officers did not wear guns on a daily basis. The force’s practice was modeled on the unarmed British ‘Bobbie’ tradition of policing by consent. The streets were safer. It was a more innocent time. Back then, as one older Shoreline reader recalled, “Young men fought over women, and they fought with their fists.”
The RNC’s investigation did not prove that Robert Belbin stabbed someone in a fight on George Street. Maybe the RNC won’t prove Robert Belbin is a member of a “criminal network” either. Maybe we’ll discover Robert Belbin was a target that night on George Street like the night his Nan and Pop’s house was hit. Maybe the investigation into the death of Seamus Secord will eventually lead elsewhere. Those are all questions for another day, but what we do know now is that a more innocent time is long, long gone.