British Columbia

IIO investigations taking too long at 18 months, says critic

A lawyer says IIO investigations are taking too long, which is "absolutely brutal" for families looking for answers. He says if delays keep growing, it would be "a bit of a disaster" for the legal system.

Pivot Legal Society says they are watching 5 cases that have gone for 18 months with no resolution

Almost 18 months later, Peter de Groot's death is still being investigated by the IIO. (Facebook)

B.C.'s Independent Investigations Office is taking up to 18 months to complete investigations into police-related death and injuries, and critics say that is just too long.

Recently, the IIO said the investigation into a recent police-involved death of a mother and son in the small town of Granisle will take up to 18 months.

Douglas King, a lawyer with Pivot Legal Society, says such lengthy delays are problematic and if the delays grow further, there could be more problems.

"There is a limitation period of two years to start an action in most cases now, and people who are directly involved in these incidents, and families who have been affected, that's often the deadline where they have to decide if they're going to take action against a police department," King told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko.

"18 months is truly unacceptable, two years would be a bit of a disaster, to be perfectly honest. It would have severe impacts on the rest of the legal system."

Pivot Legal Society lawyer Doug King says if IIO investigations start taking two years instead of 18 months, it would be chaos for the court system. (Steve Lus/CBC)

King says Pivot is waiting for the conclusion of several IIO investigations, including the 2014 death of Tony Du, who was shot and killed by the Vancouver Police Department, which is now coming up on 18 months.

King says other long-running IIO cases include the shootings of Peter de Groot and Naverone Woods, both of which are closing in on 18 months in duration.

"It's absolutely brutal, especially for the families of people killed by police, and for the officers themselves, to have to wait that long," King said.

Speaking for the IIO, Marten Youssef said many of the delays in investigations are beyond their control.

"An officer-involved fatality is equivalent to a homicide in the level of rigour that's required," he said. "We rely on third-party reports. We don't have our own forensic laboratory … and sometimes those reports take an exceeding amount of time."

"We're definitely not proud of our timeliness, and we're doing everything we can to expedite this process."

But King thinks some of the delays might be internal problems within the IIO.

If the only thing holding up these investigations is a third-party report, then we really need to start talking to the provincial government about how that can be fixed," he said. "If it's a problem with internal issues with the IIO, then certainly the public has an expectation that the IIO should fix those."

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: IIO investigations taking too long and could put cases in jeopardy, critic says