An RCMP officer accused of assaulting and sexually harassing four female colleagues in the late 1990s probably should have been dismissed from the force, a retired superintendent who reviewed the cases says.

In an exclusive interview with CBC-TV's The Fifth Estate, Ian Atkins, who conducted an internal review of how the cases were handled by the RCMP, said that had he conducted a hearing and believed the accused officer, Sgt. Robert Blundell, was dishonest, "I would seriously consider dismissal."

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Retired RCMP superintendent Ian Atkins was asked to conduct an internal review of how the cases involving four women who alleged they were sexually harassed were handled by the RCMP. (CBC)

Asked by The Fifth Estate's Gillian Findlay if he thought that's what should have happened, Atkins said: "In this case? Probably yes."

But Atkins's mandate did not allow him to make that kind of judgment. After the women launched a lawsuit in 2003, the RCMP ordered an internal review of how their cases had been handled.  

In his first television interview, new RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told The Fifth Estate that he didn't want to debate the decision.

"I like to think the Blundell case has been resolved."

But Paulson did say that under his watch, discipline and accountability would be key.

"I'm committed to that," Paulson said. "We today agreed, the commanding officers — and I've given instructions to them to go forward and make that live, so that's going to be happening." 

The four female officers who complained worked for Blundell on undercover investigations in Calgary from 1994 to 1997. They all have similar stories of being assaulted.

Victoria Cliffe, one of the four women, told The Fifth Estate that after an undercover operation at a bar, where they had both been drinking, Blundell said they had to share a room at a hotel because the hotel was booked.

"I woke up and Rob was all over me. He had his hands in my clothes, under my clothes," said Cliffe.

"I was in the scenario," said Krista Carle, another complainant, describing her undercover operation with Blundell. "I didn't want to blow the operation. I didn't want to turn around and slap him in the face or turn around and say, 'Get your hands off me!' I just basically froze."

Carle, who graduated from the RCMP's training academy in 1991, is now off the job and says she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The women kept the allegations secret for years. But when they finally did come forward, they say they were shunned by RCMP colleagues and badly served by the force's internal review process.

During the initial RCMP internal hearing based on the complaints of one of the female officers, Blundell denied that he had assaulted the women in any way. He was acquitted.

But as a second hearing on two of the other complaints was about to get underway, Blundell admitted to "discreditable conduct" which included "touching private areas" on top of the clothing of one of the women and "grabbing" the breast of another.

In return for admitting to lesser charges, Blundell was allowed to cut a deal: a reprimand and docked one day's time off.

"When I walked out of that courtroom, I don't think anything more would have surprised me," Cliffe said.

"It was dealt with and it was a done deal and nothing was going to change," she said.

The case was eventually settled in 2007 with all parties agreeing to keep the terms of the settlement secret.

Blundell was eventually promoted.

The Fifth Estate asked to speak to Blundell about the allegations against him. He declined the request but sent a statement from his lawyer denying the women's claims.

Corrections

  • The initial RCMP internal hearing dealt with the complaints of one of the female officers, not two, as initially reported.
    Dec 08, 2011 10:41 PM ET