Three police officers and a civilian jail guard facing breach of trust charges in a jailhouse sex incident have had their case adjourned until November.
A justice of the peace approved an application for adjournment Thursday to give the officers time to grieve a senior RCMP decision to deny them legal funding.
All four of the defendants appeared in court briefly Thursday for a phone conference with Surrey Crown counsel Winston Sayson.
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.
The charges stem from an August 2010 incident at the city detachment. Two women in custody, who did not know one another, had sex in an RCMP cell. The incident was witnessed via video.
Elgee made his first court appearance in the case Thursday. Sayson responded by abandoning the Crown's application for a warrant that would have forced him to appear.
In a similar conference a month ago in B.C. Supreme Court, the court learned that the officers' request for funding had been denied by RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson in Ottawa.
On Thursday, Sayson said he had no objection to the adjournment as long as the defendants were willing to waive their Charter right to a trial without reasonable delay.
But Brown said he was uncomfortable waiving his rights since the position he finds himself in — without legal funds — was unforeseeable. Jerry Vravic, a representative of RCMP staff relations who is acting on behalf of the three members charged, concurred with Brown.
"This is a very difficult matter for all of us," Vravic told the court. "This is not something of their doing. This has to do with the internal policy of the RCMP."
The matter returns to court Nov. 22, when a date is to be set for a preliminary inquiry.
Mike Casault, a representative of the RCMP staff relations national executive, said they plan to meet with the commissioner and hope to persuade him to change his decision. Paulson could have approved the legal funding and later withdrawn it if the members were found guilty, Casault said.
"At the end of the day, if guilty, the members would be in debt to the Crown."
The trial is likely to be a lengthy one with plenty of preparation, meaning the legal bill could well be more than what a rank and file officer could afford, he said.
Due to the publicity the case has received, the members are being unjustly tainted without any evidence being heard in court, Casault said.
"I realize that police are held to a higher standard, but these members are facing criminal charges as a result of an event that happened while they were on duty."
Casault said he doesn't believe the denial of funding is related to Paulson's public pledge to clean house, given the string of controversies that have plagued the force in recent years. However, the combined effect is to sap morale, he added.
"Members are starting to get more and more disgruntled and they're not feeling the support there at the detachment level or higher. Members are making decisions and they're second-guessing what to do."