Three police officers facing charges over a jailhouse sex-viewing incident have been denied legal defence funding by the RCMP commissioner in Ottawa.
The denial of funding leaves the officers without legal counsel — all three defence lawyers who were retained have withdrawn their services — a setback that had Judge Chris Cleaveley reluctantly agreeing Tuesday to adjourn a pre-trial conference on the case.
Cpl. Kenneth Brown, Const. Evan Elgee and Const. Stephen Zaharia, along with civilian jail guard David Tompkins, face one count each of breach of trust as a result of the August 2010 incident at the city detachment. Two women in custody, who did not know one another, had sex in an RCMP cell, which was witnessed by the four accused via video.
Crown prosecutor Winston Sayson, who addressed the court by phone from Vancouver on Tuesday, said refusal of funding is another setback for a case already delayed. No explanation for the decision was offered in court.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson is the only one with authority to approve or deny defence funding for members.
"This kind of puts us in a holding pattern until we find someone," Sayson said. "This means they're waiving their right to a trial within a reasonable time."
Julian Van Der Walle, a Salmon Arm lawyer representing Tompkins, took no position on the adjournment.
The judge was concerned that the delay might mean a preliminary inquiry would also have to be postponed. The trial is expected to begin in September.
"It's obvious the relationship between defence counsel and the accused has broken down," Cleaveley said. "It's my view they all need to be represented by counsel for an effective presentation and arguments at the preliminary inquiry."
The matter was adjourned until a pre-trial conference set for Aug. 23. That stage of the proceedings is expected to last two weeks and involve about 15 witnesses testifying on behalf of the Crown.
The case has so far encountered a succession of hurdles.
Lawyers who were representing the officers applied for a publication ban on the preliminary hearing in early June. They abandoned that after The Daily News objected. When they next gathered on June 15, the lawyers refused to sign a promise to keep the jailhouse video strictly private.