British Columbia

Court hears claim VPD knew about detective's misconduct long before he was suspended

Fresh allegations have been made against disgraced former detective James Fisher, including a suggestion the VPD was aware of issues with the officer years before they were made public.

Convicted pimp says he's seeking evidence police were aware of issues with James Fisher in 2011

James Fisher was a celebrated Vancouver detective before his arrest on charges of sexually exploiting young victims of crime. (Government of British Columbia)

Fresh allegations have been made against disgraced former detective James Fisher, including a suggestion the Vancouver Police Department was aware of issues with the officer years before they were made public.

During a Friday appearance in B.C. Supreme Court, convicted pimp Reza Moazami told the court he's asked the VPD for more information that could help in his appeal of a 2017 bail-related conviction.

"I've requested for James Fisher's record, because in the [evidence] disclosure, there's several references to the VPD knowing since 2011," Moazami told the court.

That's five years before Fisher was suspended from duty and charged with sexual offences against young women connected to his work in the VPD's counter exploitation unit.

Once a celebrated officer with the unit, Fisher was sentenced to 20 months last year for sexual exploitation and breach of trust for kissing two female victims of sex crimes. One of those young women was a victim of Moazami's.

VPD spokesperson Sgt. Steve Addison told CBC it wouldn't be appropriate to comment on Moazami's statements in court, "however Chief [Adam] Palmer stated in December 2016 that VPD became aware of the allegations against Mr. Fisher in March 2016."

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

Fisher was the lead detective on the investigation into an underage prostitution ring run by Moazami, and his work was instrumental in securing B.C.'s first human trafficking conviction in that case in 2014.

Moazami is in the midst of multiple appeals on dozens of convictions connected to that investigation. Though the appeals have been filed at two different levels of B.C.'s court system, Moazami's argument is consistent — that extensive misconduct by Fisher interfered with his right to a fair trial.

Moazami alleges Fisher had sexual contact with at least six victims and a key witness before, during and after trial, and that Fisher gave them drugs and encouraged them to lie in court.

Allegations of sexual assault

Appearing Friday on his own behalf, Moazami alleged that his defence lawyer and Crown counsel had learned of at least one misconduct accusation against Fisher during his human trafficking trial.

"He sexually assaulted [a witness]. [She] turned around and called my counsel, and my counsel called the Crown," Moazami told the court.

He also read aloud from a submission in the appeal.

"A witness says in a statement that … 'He [Fisher] knew I was drug dependent. He gave me money, knowing that I was going to buy heroin, in exchange for sexual services.'"

Detective James Fisher, seen here in 2011, pleaded guilty last year to sexual exploitation and breach of trust. (CBC)

Fisher is also facing lawsuits from two victims in Moazami's prostitution operation, both alleging the former officer sexually abused and emotionally manipulated them. Fisher has denied those allegations, and none have been proven in court.

It's been four years since Moazami was sentenced to 23 years in prison, and during Friday's hearing, he was much more subdued than in his original trial, when he was a scowling, defiant presence with a penchant for firing his lawyers.

But he also seemed frustrated by how long his appeals are taking, both in the B.C. Court of Appeal and B.C. Supreme Court.

On Friday, Crown counsel asked B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Murray for an adjournment of Moazami's appeal on a summary conviction, saying more time was necessary to review thousands of pages of evidence disclosure.

Moazami argued against delaying the matter, saying the process "stresses me out."

But the judge cautioned him against being hasty, explaining it would help his case to take things a bit more slowly.

"You've waited a long time to get this appeal going, and you want to do it right," Murray said.

She granted the adjournment, and approved the Crown's application to seal files in the appeal.

'He's really working so hard'

Outside the court, Moazami's mother Azar Tafazoli told CBC she's also frustrated by the process, but she's optimistic about the appeals.

She said her son now spends all of his time working on his case.

"He doesn't spend his time just sitting watching TV in the prison. He's really working so hard. He's studying all of his pages and pages of his case," Tafazoli said.

The next court date has yet to be set for Moazami's appeal in B.C. Supreme Court. His appeals at the Court of Appeal are ongoing, but he has been denied bail during the process.

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.