The case of a UBC student who was brutally beaten by two Metro Vancouver Transit Police officers will head to a public hearing after all.
The incident, which happened nearly nine years ago, was captured on SkyTrain security video.
On Thursday, The B.C. Court of Appeal overturned a lower court ruling that had quashed the hearing, which had been ordered by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner (OPCC) back in 2017.
After two days of hearing testimony in 2018, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that long delays in getting to the hearing were unfair to the officers and amounted to an abuse of process.
But the province’s top court disagreed, citing “the significant public interest in having the complaint addressed in full accordance with the civilian police oversight provisions of the Police Act,” and the fact that criminal proceedings against one of the officers were the reason for the delay.
The incident happened on Aug. 10, 2011 at the Rupert SkyTrain station, and was sparked by allegations of fare evasion.
The complainant, a former UBC varsity football player whose name is protected by a publication ban, said he’d gone to the station to meet a friend, but left when he realized his companion was taking a bus instead.
It was there he encountered Const. Edgardo Diaz Rodriguez and Const. Michael Hughes, who issued him a ticket.
Officers then arrested the man for obstruction when they didn’t believe he’d given them is real name.
The complainant tried to flee, and was subsequently tackled and punched. Diaz delivered 10 baton strikes to his head, back and neck within a period of 10 seconds.
According to the OPCC, the complainant was later charged with causing a disturbance and assaulting a police officer.
Crown later stayed those charges, and the incident was referred to the OPCC in 2011.
A 2012 transit police investigation substantiated three allegations against the two officers: Abuse of authority for using unnecessary force, discreditable conduct for recommending a charge of assaulting a police officer without sufficient grounds, and discreditable conduct for recommending a charge of being intoxicated in a public place without sufficient grounds.
Diaz was suspended with pay in 2013, and remains a transit police officer.
Hughes quit the transit police in 2012, but was still found to have committed four instances of abuse of authority in a 2014 discipline hearing he did not attend.
That same year, the two men were charged criminally, putting a hold on the Police Act proceedings against Diaz.
Diaz pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm in 2016 and was sentenced to a year of probation. Charges were stayed against Huges.
Police Act proceedings resumed in 2016, and the OPCC called a public hearing that November when it was unsatisfied with the probe’s findings.
That hearing finally began in February 2018, and made it through two days of testimony from the complainant before the proceedings were quashed by the B.C. Supreme Court.
— With files from Kristen Robinson