British Columbia

Pretrial inmate Daniel Cunningham sues Surrey guards after savage beating

A former Red Scorpion gang associate is suing staff at Surrey Pretrial Centre after allegedly suffering a savage five-hour beating within earshot of a guard control desk.

Ex-Red Scorpion associate claims savage attack happened within earshot of guard control desk

A former Red Scorpions associate is suing guards at Surrey Pretrial Centre after he was allegedly beaten in a cell by fellow inmates for five hours. (Leoboudv/Wikimedia)

A former Red Scorpions gang associate is suing staff at Surrey Pretrial Centre in B.C. after he was allegedly beaten for five hours within earshot of a guard control desk.

In a B.C. Supreme Court notice of civil claim, Daniel Cunningham claims two inmates forced him into a cell in June and "punched, kicked and stomped" him unconscious; he says he suffered brain damage and broken bones.

The Abbotsford man claims guards failed to notice he wasn't in his cell during a body count. He says they also didn't respond to his screams and the noise of other inmates egging on his attackers.

"The fact that somebody in a pretrial centre can be held captive in somebody else's cell, bound and tortured for five hours — and there's no intervention from staff is just shocking," said Tonia Grace, Cunningham's lawyer.

Feared for safety

Cunningham was initially remanded to Surrey Pretrial in April 2015 in relation to drug trafficking charges. But his time in pretrial custody was extended after he was charged with robbery.

According to his lawsuit, Cunningham claims his situation within the facility changed on June 11 when he was sentenced on the drug charges.

Grace says Cunningham promised in open court to leave gang life and give up drugs; he received a six-month sentence, but instead of being sent to jail, he was sent back to pretrial to await determination of the robbery charges.

Cunningham claims he previously told pretrial staff that "if it became known that he intended to leave the lifestyle, he would be at risk of violence from members or affiliates of the Red Scorpions."

But according to the claim, he was transferred into a unit known to house members of the gang.

After his day in court, Cunningham claims an unknown inmate ordered him to go to a cell where two other inmates started beating him and slammed the door shut.

He claims he was held there and beaten for the next five hours. He says he was knocked unconscious at least three times and "pretended to be dead" at times.

"The plaintiff had his head forced into the toilet water several times in an attempt to drown him," reads the claim.

"He was forced to lick his own blood off the shoes of his attackers and clean his blood off the floor and walls using his clothes."

Accusations of misfeasance

According to the claim, the cell where Cunningham was beaten lay no more than three metres from a guard control desk and was reserved for inmates placed on enhanced supervision.

But he says officers didn't find him until his cellmate activated an alarm.

Cunningham claims he was taken to hospital 45 minutes after he was found and then released to the pretrial infirmary. He says he spent the next month in solitary confinement and is now in protective custody.

The notice of civil claim accuses the pretrial guards of negligence and misfeasance in public office for "knowingly permitting the assault."

Grace says she has handled other cases involving beatings at Surrey Pretrial.

In December 2013, a former pretrial guard was handed a four-year sentence for accepting bribes and smuggling contraband into the facility for members of a rival gang to the Red Scorpions.

B.C. Corrections says it has not been served with Cunningham's claim but will respond. It says every incident of violence in pretrial custody is reviewed.