British Columbia

Student charged with voyeurism after RCMP's alleged mishandling of initial response

A student at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan (UBCO) campus has been criminally charged in relation to a case which, the alleged victim claims, almost never made it to prosecution, after the responding officer tried to talk her out of pursuing charges out of concern for the suspect's well-being.

Student claims case nearly didn't make it to prosecution after officer expressed concern for suspect's future

A flag for the University of British Columbia is pictured in front of the Commons building at the Okanagan campus in February 2021. A student at the school claims she was filmed in March 2020 by another student while she used the bathroom. (Curtis Allen)

WARNING: This story contains descriptions of voyeurism that might be upsetting to some readers.

A student at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan (UBCO) campus has been criminally charged in relation to a case which — according to the alleged victim — was nearly derailed after the responding RCMP officer tried to talk her out of pursuing charges out of concern for the suspect's well-being.

Sari Siyam, who is in his early 20s, now faces a charge of voyeurism in connection with an incident at the university's Kelowna, B.C., campus on March 10, 2020.

The charge was laid two weeks after CBC News reported on the case, detailing the victim's experience with RCMP. 

The alleged victim, whose real name is protected by a publication ban, claimed she caught a man using an iPhone to film her in a co-ed bathroom in the school's Commons building.

The bathroom in the Commons at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus where Taylor, a pseudonym for a woman whose real name is protected by a publication ban, says the suspect filmed her. (Name withheld)

She said she told RCMP she "absolutely" wanted to move ahead with charges and that the responding RCMP officer — Const. Ryan Routley — was initially supportive. But then, she said, Routley started talking about the suspect's background and upbringing.

"[Routley] mentioned having good values, like family values," said the student, whom CBC is referring to by a pseudonym, Taylor.

"He was sort of implying he's been brought up the right way, mentioned that he had a girlfriend, that he was an engineering student with a co-op ....  He kept sort of reiterating he will never get a job."

Routley has not responded to calls, texts or emails from the CBC requesting comment.

Taylor also claimed the officer told her he didn't think the suspect was likely to reoffend. Feeling confused, she reluctantly agreed to stop pursuing charges.

The Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) at UBC Okanagan. The office supports those who have experienced sexual violence and decide to make a report to police or to the university. (Curtis Allen)

A second officer with the Kelowna RCMP sex crimes unit, Cpl. Tania Carroll, took over Taylor's case after university staff expressed concern about Routley's comments. Police later recommended that the suspect be charged.

CBC News corroborated the student's recollection by examining emails, notes and text messages, as well as through interviews with friends, family and confidential sources with direct knowledge of the events. Taylor has since graduated from the university.

After reading the CBC News article, the current deputy vice-chancellor at UBCO, Lesley Cormack, said she was "deeply distressed" by Taylor's version of events and requested a meeting with the RCMP.

CBC News has reached out to the detachment for comment on the charge.

In an earlier email, a spokesperson said the RCMP could not address each of the student's claims regarding Const. Routley as the file was still with the Crown at the time.

Siyam, the accused, is set to make his first court appearance in April.


If you are the victim of sexual violence, please reach out for help to HealthLinkBC by calling 811, or through the Crime Victim Assistance Program at 1-866-660-3888 or VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808 or text 604-836-6381.

Those seeking support from the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office at UBC Okanagan can call 250-807-9640.

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.

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