B.C. cops acquitted in Cuban sex assault case facing new investigation
The two Metro Vancouver police officers who were acquitted in connection with an alleged sexual assault in Cuba last year are facing a new investigation on home soil.
B.C.'s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner has confirmed it's opening an investigation into whether Vancouver Const. Mark Simms and Port Moody Const. Jordan Long's conduct in the communist nation was discreditable.
The pair just returned to Canada over the weekend after spending 10 months in the country.
Director of operations Andrea Spindler said the OPCC will be working on obtaining case materials from Cuba and assigning the investigation to an external police agency.
"We have also appointed a chief constable from another police department to act as the discipline authority, essentially the decision maker," Spindler said.
New Westminster Police Chief Dave Jones was announced Monday evening as the appointed disciplinary authority into the investigation, which is currently suspended until the resolution into the criminal matter in Cuba is concluded.
Once the investigation is reactivated, Chief Jones will determine whether Simms and Long can return to normal or restricted duties during the course of the conduct investigation.
Simms was accused in an alleged sexual assault of a 17-year-old Ontario girl in a Varadero hotel room, and Long was accused of being an accomplice – claims the men's families described as "a malevolent lie" in an statement issued over the weekend.
Simms and Long were acquitted of the charges in November by a five-person judicial panel, but prohibited from leaving Cuba because the prosecutor appealed the decision. The pair returned home on Saturday afternoon.
"The prosecutor’s appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court of Cuba and the unanimous verdict of innocence was upheld," their families said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with others whose lives are turned upside-down by injustice and our hearts go out to true victims who are further harmed whenever false accusations are made."
Criminal lawyer Sarah Leamon, who has been following the officers' case closely, told CTV News a hypothetical sexual encounter with a minor could qualify as discreditable conduct for a Canadian police officer, even if the sex is consensual.
"Police officers are held to a higher standard than other members of the community. We have to make sure that we have faith in our police," Leamon said. "They are representing their various police departments while they're on duty as well as off duty."
According to the OPCC, that standard applies to officers at home and abroad.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Ben Miljure