An officer belonging to the Victoria Police department will be facing a public hearing to address allegations of sexual assault against a woman in Vancouver while he was off duty.
According to a press release from the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC), the hearing was called after the complainant filed a request.
This request stems from an incident in May 2018 when the complainant travelled to Vancouver to visit a friend living there.
On May 12th, she and her friend met up with a group of mutual friends, one of whom was the VicPD officer who was off duty at the time. According to OPCC records, the group “engaged in significant alcohol consumption throughout the evening”.
At around 2:30 a.m., the group returned to a hotel in downtown Vancouver where the off-duty officer and his two friends had booked a room for the night. The complainant and her friend stayed in this room overnight with the officer and his friends.
The OPCC states that while sexual activity occurred between the suspect and the complainant, “there is a divergence in the evidence in terms of whether the sexual activity was consensual.”
The complainant reported that the officer sexually assaulted her while she was incapacitated from her alcohol consumption.
The Police Complaint Commissioner ordered an external investigation into the incident at the request of Victoria Police in June 2018. They designated the Vancouver Police Department to conduct the investigation.
After one year, Vancouver Police Inspector Shelly Horne reported the results of the investigation, finding that the allegations against the VicPD officer could not be substantiated.
“In arriving at the determination, the Discipline Authority found that although the Complainant was highly intoxicated, she was not intoxicated to the degree that she lacked the capacity to consent based on the evidence reviewed,” reads a statement from the OPCC.
“The Discipline Authority found the off-duty member to be a credible witness and his description of the sexual contact with the Complainant supported the proposition that he believed he had consent to touch her sexually.”
However the OPCC continued with the investigation, appointing retired Provincial Court Judge James Threlfall to review the matter, after finding reason to believe that the Vancouver Police Department’s findings were incorrect.
Retired Judge Threlfall commenced his disciplinary proceedings in October 2019 during which only the accused police member and the investigating officer testified.
“As the member did not request the calling of any witnesses during this proceeding, the Complainant and other witnesses did not have the opportunity to give testimony,” reads the OPCC public hearing notice.
Despite the limited evidence allowed by these proceedings, the Discipline Authority determined that the allegation of ‘Discreditable Conduct’ against the accused officer could not be substantiated.
After these findings were given to the complainant, she filed a request in January 2020 asking the Police Complaint Commissioner to arrange a Public Hearing into the incident.
“The Complainant stated in her request that a Public Hearing would assist in determining the truth, as she and other witnesses would have the opportunity to testify rather than hearing only from the member with respect to his version of the events,” reads the hearing notice.
This request has been granted after the Police Commissioner found it “required and necessary in the public interest”.
“In determining that a Public Hearing is necessary in the public interest, I have considered several relevant factors, including, but not limited to the following:
- The complaint is serious in nature as the allegations relate to non-consensual sexual contact that affects the dignity of a person.
- An arguable case can be made that the Discipline Authority’s interpretation or application of Part 11 of the Police Act was incorrect. I disagree with the Discipline Authority’s conclusion that in the absence of the commission of a sexual assault, the off-duty conduct of the member could not amount to misconduct. In my view, the allegation of Discreditable Conduct cannot be restricted to the discrete question of whether a sexual assault occurred. As established in Mancini v. Constable Martin Courage, OCCPS #04-09 and widely applied by Discipline Authorities in BC, ‘the concept of Discreditable Conduct covers a wide range of potential behaviours. The test to be applied is primarily an objective one. The conduct in question must be measured against the reasonable expectation of the community.’
- It is necessary to examine and cross-examine witnesses and receive evidence that was not part of the record at the Discipline Proceeding in order to ensure a complete accounting of the events and to allow for the credibility of all parties to be fully assessed;
- There is a reasonable prospect that a Public Hearing will assist in determining the truth; and
- A Public Hearing is required to preserve public confidence in the Victoria Police Department.”
Retired Supreme Court Justice Wally Oppal has been appointed to preside as Adjudicator in these proceedings.
Dates for the public hearing have not yet been announced.