British Columbia

Misconduct charges against Surrey Six Mountie stayed over cancer diagnosis

Cpl. Paul Johnston was charged in 2011 over alleged misconduct during the murder investigation. During a hearing in B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday, charges against him were stayed.

Cpl. Paul Johnston was charged in 2011 over alleged conduct during murder investigation

People line up to be screened to enter the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver in 2013, when the trial of the 2007 Surrey Six murders opened. Misconduct charges against a former Mountie involved in the investigation were stayed on Tuesday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Charges have been stayed against the last of the four Mounties accused of misconduct in connection with their behaviour during the Surrey Six murder investigation, largely because he is suffering from cancer. 

The B.C. Prosecution Service confirmed the stay after a brief hearing in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday morning. The move means Paul Johnston, a corporal before he retired from the force, won't be prosecuted on charges of breach of trust and obstruction of justice.

Johnston's lawyer, Michael Bolton, said his client was "very relieved" after Tuesday's hearing.

"He's always maintained his innocence in this matter, but the realistic situation is that no trial was going to occur for at least another year and possibly or probably much longer than that, if one could ever occur based on his health prospects," Bolton told CBC.

Johnston is still undergoing treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma. The former officer was first diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and received treatment but relapsed early last year.

His medical team has said he has a 50 per cent chance at recovery. 

No longer in the public interest

During Tuesday's hearing, special prosecutor Chris Considine read a statement explaining the Crown doesn't believe it's in the public interest to prosecute Johnston anymore, given his health and the amount of time that's passed since charges were laid.

The so-called Surrey Six investigation began after six people were gunned down at a highrise in the city in October 2007. It was the deadliest gang shooting in B.C. history.

In 2011, Johnston and three fellow investigating officers — Sgt. Derek Brassington, Staff Sgt. David Attew and Cpl. Danny Michaud — were charged with misconduct. The latter three all pleaded guilty in separate hearings in January.

Considine said numerous out-of-province and out-of-country witnesses, some with "significant" security concerns in the Lower Mainland, would need to be brought to a trial for Johnston if one were to proceed.

"The Crown is obliged to consider the length and expense of a prosecution in relation to the social benefit to be gained," its statement read.

"The sentencings which took place for the three co-accused in January have sent a strong public message that misconduct by police officers ... will not be tolerated," it continued.

Brassington was sentenced to two years less a day house arrest for having a months-long, sexual affair with a potential key witness in the case. 

Derek Brassington outside provincial court in 2013. The former Mountie was sentenced to two years less a day of house arrest in January for his behaviour during the Surrey Six murder investigation. (CBC)

Attew pleaded guilty to failing to maintain law and order in B.C. contrary to the RCMP Act over his own inappropriate conduct with witnesses. He was sentenced to six months house arrest with conditions.

Brassington and Attew were both principal investigators on the murder case. Attew was the superior officer.

Michaud, who worked in exhibits on the case, pleaded guilty to lying to police when he was asked if he knew about Brassington's affair. He was sentenced to three months house arrest on the same offence as Attew.

Brassington and Attew have left the force, while Michaud was suspended for the past nine years. Bolton said Johnston took a medical retirement.

Five people were convicted in connection with the Surrey murders.

About the Author

Rhianna Schmunk is a staff writer for CBC News. She is based in Vancouver with a focus on justice and the courts. You can reach her on Twitter @rhiannaschmunk or by email at rhianna.schmunk@cbc.ca.