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Former VPD detective who kissed young witnesses jailed 20 months
Published Tuesday, August 21, 2018 11:20AM PDT Last Updated Tuesday, August 21, 2018 7:17PM PDT
A former Vancouver police detective who kissed two vulnerable young witnesses in pimping and sexual trafficking cases has been sentenced to spend 20 months behind bars.
James Fisher, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of breach of trust and one count of sexual exploitation, was also ordered to serve two years' probation.
"Crown was seeking a 20-month jail term and that's what was imposed in this case. The judge wants to send a clear message of condemnation of the accused crimes," said Gordon Komer, spokesperson for the BC Prosecution Service.
In an email, senior prosecutor Winston Sayson told CTV News the stiff sentence should serve to deter potential offenders.
"It is tragic that a highly respected and senior police officer fell from grace in such a disastrous way. Much power has been entrusted to police officers. Much accountability is expected from them," he wrote.
Fisher's lawyer had asked a judge for a mandatory minimum 90-day sentence to be served on weekends. Last month, the lawyer suggested some of Fisher's sentence be served in the community so the father could remain with his family.
His 25-year-old daughter said she was scared of losing her dad, calling him the most important person in her life.
At the time of the incidents, which took place between August and December 2015, Fisher was a high-ranking member of the VPD's Counter Exploitation Unit, a team that investigates prostitution and criminal exploitation.
The court heard Fisher kissed one of the victims on three separate occasions, starting when she was 17 years old. One incident took place in a Vancouver Police Department office after he had taken her to see a psychiatrist.
In a victim impact statement played in court in July, the young woman said through her life she'd learned that her value was to be a sex object.
"When Jim Fisher started to make sexual advances, I thought that is the price I have to pay for him helping me," she said.
In the statement, she said the detective's actions made her relapse into drug addiction, and caused her to drop out of school. In addition to her statement, the court also heard recorded conversations between the victim and the detective, recorded after the woman agreed to allow the VPD to listen in as part of their investigation into the allegations.
A man identified as Fisher can be heard asking her to tell police they never had sex, then apologizing for hurting her.
The court also heard from a second victim who said she'd thought of Fisher as a father figure when she first met him at age 15. She said they used to joke about him walking her down the aisle one day.
In a recorded conversation played later in court, the woman asked Fisher about when he kissed her.
"I shouldn't have done that. I apologize for that," he can be heard telling her.
In her victim impact statement, she said the kissing transformed her from an upbeat and social girl to someone who felt hopeless and pessimistic.
"We know that these women were particularly vulnerable and he really was held accountable because of their co-operation," said Sophia Hladik from Vancouver Rape Relief.
Fisher pleaded guilty to breach of trust and sexual exploitation for kissing the 17-year-old, and breach of trust for kissing the second woman.
He served 29 years as a VPD officer and was the recipient of a Chief Constable citation in 2015 for his work investigating violent pimp Reza Moazami. He retired in January 2017, 14 months before pleading guilty.
Sayson said he's hopeful that the VPD's thorough investigation into one of its own will restore public trust in local police.
"This case demonstrates that when a police officer commits a crime, it will be investigated thoroughly by the police, prosecuted vigorously by the Crown, and sentenced appropriately by the courts," the prosecutor wrote.
VPD Superintendent Mike Porteous said the case is disappointing on several levels.
"I think it's an ugly incident where there's no winners, but at the end of the day I think justice was served," he said.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Shannon Paterson