For the second time in months, the Criminal Justice Branch is being questioned for their choice of “experts” to rely on in refusing to approve criminal charges against police.
Yesterday, the Criminal Justice Branch (“CJB”) told the BCCLA and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs that in refusing to approve charges in the Wright matter they relied, in part, on Vancouver Police Sergeant Brad Fawcett, who they described as “equivocal” in his conclusions.
Sgt. Fawcett is best known in British Columbia for being an expert who gave a use of force report that cleared the four RCMP officers who Tasered Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver Airport. Commissioner Braidwood, in his final report, said that Sgt. Fawcett’s expert report on Dziekanski’s death was “blinkered”. The Commissioner added that if Fawcett’s understanding of use of force was consistent with police training in British Columbia, such a situation “troubles me greatly”.
“We simply don’t understand how it can be that investigating agencies and oversight bodies can’t find experts who are independent and will maintain public confidence,” said lawyer Lindsay Lyster, President of the BCCLA. “If an expert opinion is so critical in this process, relying on experts who only testify for police or whose opinion has been described as ‘blinkered’ and ‘troubling’ is not a good strategy.”
“We now understand why the Criminal Justice Branch didn’t release the name of this expert with their so-called ‘clear statement’ media release,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, “They didn’t release his name until we asked because their reliance on him, again, is embarrassing. What other embarrassing details in this case is the Crown keeping secret?”
Given the “no charge” decision, the BCCLA and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs continue to press the Criminal Justice Branch and the RCMP for the release of the investigation report in its entirety, including the “expert report” and “additional information” provided to the Crown by Sgt. Brad Fawcett, as well as the video, the audio and any other records of the incident.