In the wake of former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum‘s acquittal on a charge of public mischief, one of his longtime political allies is calling for a probe into how his case was handled.
McCallum was charged last year over a police report he made alleging Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaigner Debi Johnstone had run over his foot during a dispute outside a South Surrey Save-On-Foods on Sept. 4, 2021.
B.C. Provincial Court Judge Reg Harris found McCallum not guilty on Monday, ruling McCallum’s foot had, in fact, been run over, and that he had not intended to mislead police despite discrepancies in his story.
Outside the courthouse, former Safe Surrey Coalition coun. Laurie Guerra said McCallum and his family had been put through an ordeal, and suggested the mayor’s plan to scrap the RCMP in Surrey could have been related.
“I think there should be an investigation as to why a case like this, that didn’t have that threshold, in my opinion, was investigated to begin with,” she said.
During the trial Guerra testified for the defence, outlining what she said was a campaign of harassment against the mayor and his party over the city’s police transition.
Former Surrey mayor acquitted on charge of public mischief
Lawyer Ravi Hira, KC, who was not involved in the case, told Global News the proper protocols were followed leading up to McCallum being charged.
“Here, a special prosecutor was appointed, which means he was appointed, he had no stake in the game, he was unbiased, and he was required to apply the very rigorous charge approval system,” he said.
“He was required to show, to be satisfied, there was a substantial likelihood of conviction and it was in the public interest to proceed. So with that robust system and the independent prosecutor one would think that the integrity of the system was preserved and in play. Here there was a defence and the defence was successful.”
As to whether the RCMP should have been involved in the investigation, given a potential conflict of interest relating to the mayor’s plan to eliminate the force as the police of jurisdiction in Surrey?
“That’s a question that should be put to the RCMP,” he said.
In a statement to Global News, the RCMP maintained that steps were taken to ensure the investigation was independent.
“In order to ensure there was no potential for real or perceived conflict of interest or improper influence, BC RCMP Major Crime Section – Special Projects Unit took conduct of the previous Surrey RCMP investigation,” the force said.
The legal allegations hung over McCallum during Surrey’s recent municipal election, which McCallum lost to Brenda Locke by fewer than 1,000 votes.
Former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum found not guilty of public mischief
University of the Fraser Valley associate professor of political science Hamish Telford said it’s impossible to say how much of an effect the charge had on the mayor’s prospects, but noted it was just one factor of many in voters’ minds.
“It may have factored into some people’s decision, but I think there was the broader question of Doug McCallum’s sort of fitness for office,” he said.
“He had been very controversial not only with pushing through the police issue but also for the way he had managed city hall, city council, as well as his plans going forward for things like a new stadium.”
Nonetheless, with McCallum now acquitted of the charge, he said the matter of taxpayers picking up the mayor’s legal bills should be settled.
“It would seem appropriate to me at least for the city to cover his expenses and I hope the mayor and council do that and put this behind them,” he said.
Locke had previously said the city would work to block public funding of McCallum’s legal bills. In a statement following the not-guilty verdict, the city said it was reviewing its options on the file.
Meanwhile, Debi Johnstone issued a statement to Global News Tuesday maintaining her testimony about not running over McCallum’s foot was accurate.
“I remain adamant that I did not run over Mr. McCallum’s foot with my car. It was not my request or my wish to be involved in a legal proceeding like this,” Johnstone wrote.
In his decision, Harris said he did not find Johnstone a reliable witness on this point, though said she may not have realized she had done so.
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