RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson is wrong to deny legal defence funding to three Kamloops Mounties facing breach of trust charges, says the head of the Mounties’ professional association.
Patrick Mehain, B.C. president of the Mounted Police Association of Canada, said the denial of funding at this stage in the case risks undermining the administration of justice.
“By denying these guys funding, all of a sudden he’s going to act like God,” Mehain said Wednesday. “That’s ludicrous.”
The officers are now on the hook to cover their own costs.
“What he’s doing is wrong,” Mehain added.
RCMP staff relations representatives were awaiting a written decision from the commissioner explaining why the officers’ application for assistance was turned down.
The RCMP media relations department in Ottawa promised to provide a statement on the decision on Wednesday, but one never arrived.
Cpl. Kenneth Brown, Const. Evan Elgee and Const. Stephen Zaharia appeared in provincial court on Tuesday without their defence lawyers, who have now quit. The officers were instead accompanied by another Mountie who is a staff representative.
The three accused, along with civilian jail guard David Tompkins, each face one count of breach of trust after they allegedly watched on video as two women inmates had sex in a cell in August 2010.
Legal assistance is available to all Crown servants from the governor-general on down, said Abe Townsend, a spokesman from the force’s staff relations program.
“It’s actually a derivation of Treasury Board policy, in this case legal funds to police officers. It’s for Crown servants acting on behalf of, in this case, the RCMP.”
The funding has two purposes: To represent Crown servants in legal action resulting from their work; and to ensure vicarious liability for the Crown. It’s by no means the first time officers have been denied defence funding.
“It’s my understanding, in the initial screening process, it was approved.”
Every time there is a new step in legal action, applicants must re-apply for funding. Their initial plea would have gone to senior administrators in B.C. and was approved, Townsend said.
“As it grows in cost, it goes further up the chain of command,” he added.
Judge Chris Cleaveley adjourned a preliminary hearing for Sept. 17 and the case, which has already encountered several procedural hurdles, is once again on hold.
In early June, the case was stalled by a pretrial conference publication ban application from the defence that was abandoned after The Dailiy News objected.
On June 15, defence lawyers refused to sign a promise to keep the sex video private.
Crown lawyer Winston Sayson said the judge adjourned the September hearing to give the officers time to find new lawyers. He said and all parties will be back in court on Aug. 23 to fix a pretrial conference date.
“It is certainly an optimistic hope that everything will be ready for Aug. 23,” Sayson said.