October 3, 2006
An RCMP officer alleged to have had sex with an underage prostitute says internal RCMP charges against him should be dropped because the force failed to act on the allegations years ago.
Const. Justin Harris faced RCMP code of conduct charges at a disciplinary hearing Monday, following allegations that stem from an investigation into former B.C. provincial court judge David Ramsay.
Ramsay pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a number of girls who appeared before him in court and in 2004 was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Harris came under a cloud of suspicion during the Ramsay case for alleged involvement with young prostitutes.
The RCMP charges Harris behaved in a “disgraceful manner” while he worked in Prince George, B.C., alleging he sexually touched an underage prostitute during an improper search. On another occasion he’s alleged to have paid her for sex.
Harris is also accused of forcing a prostitute into sex, then arguing about how much it cost and pushing her out of his car.
Harris maintains his innocence and has not been criminally charged.
Reginald Harris, the lawyer representing Const. Harris, says the RCMP disciplinary tribunal should be quashed because the force knew about the allegations years ago.
An RCMP report produced in 2002 names Const. Harris in a complaint from at least one prostitute.
Reginald Harris says the RCMP Act doesn’t allow a hearing to take place more than a year after a senior officer becomes aware of allegations like that. The RCMP decided to proceed against Const. Harris in 2005.
Assistant RCMP commissioner Gary Bass testified that police didn’t do anything about it at the time because allegations were being made against as many as nine officers in Prince George and Bass said most were thin, third-hand and lacked corroboration.
Asked whether he would have ordered a criminal investigation after reading the direct complaint from the woman against Harris, Bass replied “I don’t know,” adding that the investigator who wrote the report didn’t indicate whether he believed the prostitute.
Outside the hearing, Reginald Harris wouldn’t discuss his strategy of putting the RCMP on trial.
“There are several issues in this case and I’m not going to get into what’s before the board right now,” he said.
Const. Harris’s father, former RCMP staff sergeant Scott Harris, is hopeful that his son can walk away from the charges.
“They have to do their job,” said Scott Harris. “I’m disappointed in the quality of the investigation, from what I’m aware of. I think if they did a better job he wouldn’t be here today.”
It’s now up to the tribunal hearing the charges against Harris, to decide whether the RCMP’s reluctance to believe them at first now makes it too late to deal with them.