British Columbia

Surrey Six killers Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston sue for mistreatment

Two men convicted of first degree murder in the Surrey Six killings are suing the province of B.C. for alleged abuses they claim they suffered in pre-trial segregation.

Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston claim they suffered as a result of extended time in segregation

Matthew Johnston, on the left, and Cody Haevischer are depicted in this sketch made in a B.C. Supreme Court courtroom. (CBC)

Two men convicted of first degree murder in the Surrey Six slayings are suing the province of B.C. for abuses they claim to have suffered during extended time in pre-trial segregation.

In separate B.C. Supreme Court lawsuits, Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston claim they each spent more than a year in isolation following their arrests in the spring of 2009.

They were incarcerated in different provincial institutions but claim to have suffered similar hardships: freezing cold cells smeared with blood, urine and feces, and a lack of access to counsel and family.

"Some of the guards took notice of the plaintiff's deteriorating condition and were concerned the plaintiff was becoming very depressed," reads Johnston's notice of civil claim.

"Because he had no one to speak to and very little human contact, the plaintiff began talking to himself or singing to himself — behaviour which is unusual and alarmed him."

Security and safety

Haevischer and Johnston, both 30, were sentenced to life in prison in December 2014 for six counts of first degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the so-called Surrey Six killings.

A total of 19 shots were fired in the massacre in a Surrey, B.C. apartment in 2007. Two victims were innocent bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time. Four others were described by police as having criminal lifestyles.

Haevischer and Johnston are currently incarcerated in Quebec. Both men are appealing their convictions.

According to their notices of civil claim, Johnston and Haevischer were told they had to be segregated from the general prison population for security and safety reasons.

Both men are members of the Red Scorpions gang, and their arrests generated a lot of media attention.

Cell smeared with blood: claim

Haevischer claims his cell at the Surrey Pretrial Centre was smeared with blood. He says a video camera denied him any privacy while using the toilet, and he had to sleep fully clothed.

Haevischer claims he wasn't permitted to speak with his 12-year-old daughter for more than two months.

He says he was also only able to speak with his lawyer in an open area, where he couldn't hear because of screaming and banging on cells.

Johnston claims the window of his segregated cell at Fraser Regional Correctional Centre was spray painted black. 

"The lights in the plaintiff's cell were on continuously," his claim reads.

Johnston claims he had only limited access to hundred of thousands of pages of legal documents: "For the first six months he was in separate confinement, the plaintiff had no access to a desk to use in the review of his disclosure."

Isolation directed by police: claim

Both men claim their isolation was directed by police as opposed to the need to maintain order behind bars. They say their mental health deteriorated as a result.

Jamie Bacon, flanked by two police officers after an arrest outside his home, successfully challenged his pre-trial segregation. (CBC)

Haevischer claims he still suffers from anxiety, and Johnston says he was diagnosed with 'isolation dysthymia' by a B.C. Corrections physician.  

They were ultimately released into the general population in June 2010 following a B.C. Supreme Court challenge by Jamie Bacon, the alleged gang leader who still awaits trial in connection with the Surrey Six killings.

Justice Mark McEwan found the warden of Surrey Pretrial had used her powers to assist police and breached Bacon's charter right against cruel and unusual punishment.

Following their convictions, Haevischer and Johnston attempted to argue for a stay of proceedings as a remedy for the alleged abuses they suffered. But a judge ruled the matter was best dealt with in civil proceedings.

The pair are seeking unspecified damages for alleged breaches of their charter rights to life, liberty and security of person.

They claim an award is necessary to express condemnation of their treatment and to ensure safe and proper treatment of incarcerated individuals in the future.

None of the allegations has been proven in court and the province has not filed a statement of defence.