Photograph by: Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Sun
VANCOUVER — Four RCMP officers working on the Surrey Six murder case are facing a total of 20 criminal charges after one of them was accused of having an improper affair with a potential witness in the case.
Sgt. Derek Brassington, the officer at the centre of the controversy, is facing seven charges, including breach of trust, obstruction of justice and fraud, claiming expenses to which he was not entitled and compromising and endangering the witness.
His supervisor at the time, Insp. Dave Attew, is facing six counts, including breach of trust and fraud and compromising the safety of a witness.
Two other offers, Paul Johnson and Danny Michaud, have been charged with breach of trust, obstruction of justice and misleading investigators from the Ontario Provincial Police who were looking into the accusations against Brassington.
Special prosecutor Chris Considine recommended the charges after reviewing the investigation done by the OPP.
Considine, a Victoria lawyer, was appointed in November of last year to decide what should be done with the OPP's findings.
RCMP Chief Supt. Janice Armstrong said Thursday that she is "deeply disappointed in the alleged actions of the officers involved."
"The investigators charged in this case were senior, experienced and trusted police officers. Their alleged behaviour is completely contrary to the RCMP's core values, and falls well below the standard the public expects from us," Armstrong said.
All four officers have been suspended with pay, but Armstrong said a move is underway to change that status to suspended without pay.
They could still be called as witnesses in the Surrey Six trial of four men charged with first-degree murder in the gangland slaying of six in a Surrey, B.C. highrise in October 2007.
Armstrong said it will ultimately be up to a court to decide if the criminal charges against the officers impacts their credibility on the stand.
"Crown counsel on the Surrey Six homicides has been informed of the alleged actions of our police officers, and has indicated there will be no change to the decision to prosecute those charged with the homicides," Armstrong said.
She said the families of all six victims, which included two innocent bystanders, were told of the charges.
"There's no question this is the last thing these families should have had to deal with, in the context of the murder of their loved ones," she said.
Allegations of the alleged affair between Brassington and the witness were made to the RCMP in December 2009, Armstrong said.
"As the internal investigation progressed it was determined that there was likely evidence to support the allegations and the RCMP announced the investigation to the public in January 2010," she said.
The OPP was called in that February and was "given a wide mandate and unfettered access to all material, equipment, information and personnel involved in this file," Armstrong said, thanking the agency for its work.
Brassington was suspended in April 2010, followed by Attew in June 2010. The other two were put on paid leave last fall, Armstrong said.
"I want to be clear — the alleged behaviours are absolutely unacceptable and show poor decision making. What is alleged to have occurred was a breach of policy, protocol and the law. And fundamentally, it was an abuse of the trust the public places in police," Armstrong told reporters.
She agreed the charges against four others could affect the public's trust in the RCMP. But she said people should understand that the charges also indicate the force has no tolerance for misconduct and takes allegations seriously.
Armstrong said while the victims' families and general public are concerned about the charges, so too are the other investigators who have spent years working on the case.
"So many investigators, specialized support units like forensics and others have poured their hearts into and devoted years to the Surrey Six investigation," she said. "I know they're committed to supporting Crown counsel as they move ahead with the prosecution of those believed to be responsible for the murders."
No specific details about the evidence against the four officers was released. Armstrong said it would be inappropriate to comment on it given the matter is now before the courts. And the special prosecutor also indicated he would not comment for the same reason. All four officers are expected to make their first appearances in Surrey provincial court on July 11.
Considine's mandate included conducting an independent charge review of the OPP's Report to Crown Counsel and "making the charging decision he deems appropriate in the exercise of his independent prosecutorial discretion," offering legal advice to the OPP if further investigation is deemed necessary, providing a written report to the assistant deputy attorney general and conducting the prosecution if charges are laid.
Five men are charged in connection with the gangland-style execution of six people in a Surrey highrise in October 2007.
Jamie Bacon, Matt Johnson, Cody Haevischer and Michael Le are facing first-degree-murder charges in the case, while another suspect, Sophon Sek, is facing a manslaughter charge in connection with the deaths.
The Vancouver Sun