RCMP blasted for waffling on charged officers’ legal fees
The RCMP is drawing criticism from within for waffling on whether to pay the legal fees of four Mounties charged in the Surrey Six murder investigation.
Sgt. David Attew, Sgt. Derek Brassington, Cpl. Paul Johnston and Cpl. Danny Michaud have been accused of a combined 20 criminal counts, including fraud, obstruction of justice and compromising the safety of a witness, but their case is being delayed because the force hasn’t decided whether to foot their legal bills.
“When we do conclude a decision we’ll be letting the members know and then we can go from there, but it’s a rather private matter between the members and us,” RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told CTV News.
The Mounted Police Professional Association said the lack of action is jarring, but not unique.
Association spokesman Rob Creasser, a former RCMP officer, said there have been cases in the past where it took more than a year after a Mountie was charged to come to a decision on legal funding.
“That decision needs to be made in a timely matter,” Creasser said. “The commissioner, or his delegate, needs to be accountable not only to the courts but to the members and to the public.”
Even the RCMP Staff Relations Representative Program, the Mounties’ official labour relations organization, said it’s frustrated by the apparent foot-dragging.
“I can’t speak to the specifics of the RCMP members involved in the Surrey Six matter, I can say the issues around timely responses for legal assistance applications has been problematic,” SRRP executive Abe Townsend said in a statement. “These delays not only affect the individual, but the administration of justice.”
According to government policy, RMCP officers can be eligible for legal assistance only if their actions met three basic eligibility criteria: that they acted in good faith, within the scope of their duties, and did not act against the interests of the Crown.
Attew, Brassington, Johnston and Michaud were charged and suspended in 2010 after allegations arose that Brassington had slept with a witness in the 2007 murder case.
Further investigation led to numerous additional allegations, including that officers claimed false expenses and overtime while others tried to cover for them.
On top of the indecision over their legal funding, the four Mounties remain on the RCMP payroll – despite promises to cut them off dating back as early as July 2011.
So far, the tab for their salaries has cost taxpayers more than $1 million.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Lisa Rossington