Detective's 'hidden side' came out when he took advantage of young sex crime victims

A B.C. judge's sentencing decision this week reveals in detail how a 29-year veteran detective of the Vancouver Police Department took advantage of young women who put their faith in him when they were at their most vulnerable.

Sentencing decision for ex-Vancouver detective James Fisher reveals how he exploited 2 women

James Fisher received numerous awards during his three decades as a police officer, including this 2014 Community Safety and Crime Prevention award, presented by then-B.C. attorney general Suzanne Anton. (Government of British Columbia)

James Fisher's marriage is in jeopardy; his decorated policing career tarnished. But "that was the price he ought to have known he would pay" when he took advantage of two young victims of the sex trade, according to a British Columbia judge.

The former Vancouver detective's children, brother and fellow officers all submitted character references on Fisher's behalf during his sentencing this week for breach of trust and sexual exploitation. They spoke of a beloved father and a dedicated policeman who had a reputation as a workaholic.

None of that should cancel out his abuse of a vulnerable teenage girl and an equally vulnerable young woman, Provincial Court Judge Robert Hamilton wrote this week.

"What I cannot and will not lose sight of is that the James Fisher known to all of these character references is the same James Fisher who committed these crimes," Hamilton wrote.

"There is in this case a very different and hidden side to Mr. Fisher that is unknown to the authors of the character references."

On Tuesday, Hamilton sentenced Fisher to a total of 20 months in jail, after the retired detective pleaded guilty to charges related to kissing the two young victims.

The judge's sentencing decision reveals in detail how a 29-year veteran of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) took advantage of young people who put their faith in him when they were at their most vulnerable.

Fisher 'made the choice to victimize them again'

The young women were both abused by men who operated underage prostitution rings, and Fisher was a key investigator in both cases.

Hamilton wrote that one of the victims was "brutally exploited in the sex trade" by Reza Moazami, who pimped out girls as young as 14 and was the first person in B.C. to be convicted of human trafficking in 2015. The other victim worked for the pimp Michael Bannon, and had sexual encounters with an estimated 200 clients.

The court heard that Fisher met alone with both victims, known as A. and B. in court documents.

That was in defiance of a policy of the VPD's counter exploitation unit that says officers should always be in pairs when they meet with female victims and witnesses.

"It was Mr. Fisher's job to try and extract A. and B. from the sex trade where they were victimized by their pimps and strangers. Mr. Fisher then made the choice to victimize them again and he was able to do so because of that trust these women had in Mr. Fisher," the judge wrote.

Reza Moazami was sentenced to 23 years in prison for running a teenage prostitution ring. (CBC)

The first victim was 21 when Fisher kissed her in 2015. Her abuser, Moazami, had already been sentenced to 23 years in prison when Fisher asked to get together to discuss another pimp investigation.

They met in Fisher's car, where he told her she was attractive and kissed her. She told police she began drinking every day after that encounter.

In a victim impact statement, the woman said that before the incident, she considered Fisher to be a father figure, and they joked about how he would walk her down the aisle if she ever married.

"After the incident my life went downhill fast. I relapsed after five years clean time. I was no longer interested in school. I just barely finished. I always felt sick to my stomach," the young woman wrote.

Later, she confessed to Fisher that she had stabbed an ex-boyfriend in Burnaby, B.C., but instead of relaying that information to RCMP, Fisher buried it, according to the judge's decision.

One victim hadn't slept in days

The second victim was 17 years old when Fisher kissed her three times in 2015. The first time, she "just went with it" because she was not used to saying "no," Hamilton wrote.

The second time, the teenager had recently been released from the hospital after cutting her wrists, hadn't slept in days, had been drinking and taking drugs, and was starting to experience psychotic episodes.

Nonetheless, Fisher kissed her for about 10 minutes.

The final encounter happened after an appointment with a psychiatrist who was treating the young woman's psychotic episodes. Fisher picked her up from the doctor's office and took her back to the detachment, where he kissed her again.

This time, she resisted, but Fisher pressed her for one final kiss.

She told police about the incidents in March 2016, after she was detained by security for drug possession at a rave.

Fisher, seen here in 2011, retired from the Vancouver Police Department in 2017. (CBC)

Fisher's crimes ended a celebrated career that began in 1988. During his time with the VPD, he helped create its gang task force, and received national and international awards for his work.

Now 60, Fisher's three-decade marriage is on the rocks, he's been publicly humiliated and he has no prospects for turning his long policing career into other employment opportunities, according to the judge.

"The consequences to Mr. Fisher, as I have said, have been catastrophic. But that ought to come as no surprise," Hamilton wrote.

"That was the price he ought to have known he would pay and he nonetheless committed these offences."

About the Author

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay has more than a decade of experience in B.C. journalism, with a focus on the courts, health and social justice issues. She has also reported on human rights and crimes against humanity in Cambodia. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.