British Columbia

Former Pitt Meadows councillor David Murray sentenced to 9 months for sex assault

David Murray resigned in 2017 after being convicted of attacking a teenaged girl in the '90s.

Murray resigned from council after being convicted in 2017

David Murray is a former Pitt Meadows councillor who has lived in the city since 1987 and volunteered on a variety of sports teams and associations. (City of Pitt Meadows)

A former Pitt Meadows city councillor has been sentenced to nine months in jail for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl nearly 25 years ago.

David Murray was convicted of sexual assault on Oct. 25. He resigned four days later amid pressure from the public and several colleagues.

Murray's sentence includes three years of probation after his release from jail.

The sexual assault, which took place nearly 25 years ago, involved a 14-year-old whose identity is protected by a publication ban. Murray would have been in his 30s at the time.

Court documents say the incidents took place between January and December 1992.

A charge of sexual interference was previously stayed by the Crown, and prosecutors had called for a custodial sentence of nine to 12 months.

Public pressure

Murray's case has raised questions as to what city councillors can do to oust a colleague for committing a crime.

David Murray in council chambers in September of 2017. He was charged with sexual assault in December 2016 and convicted on Oct. 25, 2017. He is scheduled to appear in court for sentencing in January 2018. (CBC)

The short answer, according to legal experts, is that they can't do anything.

Lawyer Reece Harding told CBC last fall that local governments can't disqualify an elected official from council over a criminal conviction.

Criminals were forbidden from holding public office in the '70s and '80s, but that prohibition was removed, Harding said, likely over fears that it was unconstitutional.

"There are certain provisions in the [B.C. Community] Charter that specifically set out where elected officials can be disqualified from office," he said, listing concerns like conflict of interest, failing to attend meetings or not taking an oath of office. "But having a criminal record is not one of them."

In light of Murray's case, Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker has said he and his remaining councillors will address what they call a gap in the charter that dictates the rules for municipal governance.

The provincial government said it would also look at giving cities new options to handle criminally-convicted councillors.

"What happened was not OK," Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson said in October.

Mayor Becker said he hoped Murray's resignation would bring a measure of closure to the victim.