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Charges against Surrey cop should be stayed due to delays: Lawyer

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The lawyer for a Surrey RCMP officer accused of assaulting two civilians says the charges should be stayed because the case has taken too long to get to trial.

Surrey RCMP Const. Imran Saeed is charged with two counts of assault in relation to a May 2009 incident involving Surrey residents Chris Stojak and Christopher Gilmore.

Stojak was originally arrested (but never charged) for an alleged domestic disturbance where he was arguing with his common law wife. Stojak claims he was placed in the back of a police cruiser and, unhappy with the way he was being treated, asked Gilmore to take pictures of the arrest.

Despite being handcuffed, Stojak also managed to dial 911 on his cellphone and when an ambulance responded, Stojak claims Saeed punched him in the head in the back of the police cruiser. It's also alleged Saeed threw Gilmore against a wall and slammed his head into it.

Saeed pleaded not guilty to the charges in June 2010 and his trial was originally scheduled for June 2011.

However, shortly before the trial was to proceed, a second RCMP investigation was conducted – a process Imran's defence lawyer Maegan Richards said is largely to blame for the 30-month court delay.

"Nothing really came of the second investigation – I think that's a fair way of saying it," said Richards, noting many of the witness interviews were duplicated.

But Crown prosecutor Wayne Norris argued that just because nothing new was revealed, doesn't mean the second investigation wasn't necessary. He said it came to light that there were other officers on scene who may have had something to say, and they needed to be included.

"The purpose was not to shore up the Crown's case ... it was to ensure the investigation was done thoroughly, completely and without bias," Norris said, adding the outcome could very well have benefited the accused. "The fact that nothing came forward ... was simply the way it turned out."

He also argued that due to recent public distrust in the police complaint process – "police investigating police" – a charge against an RCMP officer is under greater scrutiny than a civilian case.

Norris added concerns about memory loss are also unique for Saeed because as a police officer, he is trained to take thorough notes.

Richards also referred to the lack of resources and chronic backlog at the Surrey courthouse, where there is an average 16- to 18-month delay in setting trials (the standard is eight to 10 months).

"We have a history of being a problem child in this jurisdiction," said Richards. But, she added, the site-specific problems should not be an acceptable excuse for violating a person's right to be tried in a reasonable amount of time.

Saeed, who had two years on patrol at the time of the incident, has been on administrative duties since 2009.

Judge Roy Dickey is expected to deliver a decision on the application to stay charges on June 4.

Saeed is also facing a separate assault charge in connection to a February 2009 incident where he and another RCMP officer are accused of using excessive force against a woman during a routine traffic stop. That trial is scheduled to begin June 11.

To read more about the delays in B.C.'s legal system, read The Leader's Justice Denied series.

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