Some of the victims of a former Okanagan Mountie who pleaded guilty to breach of trust don’t feel that their voices have been heard by the justice system.
Brian Burkett admits that he pursued inappropriate sexual relationships with seven women he met while working as an RCMP officer.
However, while he was originally facing seven breach of trust charges, the Crown condensed the women’s accusations into a single charge.
“In one word, my reaction is outrage,” said Kate, whose name has been changed because of a publication ban on her identity.
“It’s just saying women are all the same, women don’t need the individual voices.”
Kate said she was not warned ahead of Burkett’s court date that six charges against him were being dropped.
“Nobody reached out to me,” she said, adding that she learned the news through media reports.
Burkett pleaded guilty to one count of breach of trust in early June.
“I think this is disgusting and unacceptable. And I am absolutely disgusted with our system,” said Michelle, another victim whose name is protected by the publication ban.
Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women’s Support Services, believes Burkett should have had to face a breach of trust charge for each of the seven victims.
“It’s jarring to think that the Crown prosecutor would want to reduce the seven breach of trust charges down to one,” she said.
“It’s yet another example of the ways in which victims cannot trust the system, both in terms of policing in this case, but also the Crown prosecutor’s decisions,” she added.
The former Mountie started sending Kate sexually graphic text messages in 2016 after she’d been domestically assaulted by a partner. Burkett had responded to the incident as an RCMP officer.
Kate said she feels that what happened to her has been minimized.
“My story is so different from the other women. Their stories are so different from mine,” Kate said.
According to facts agreed to by the prosecution and the defence, Burkett sexted several of the women after responding to their cases. While the women were all in vulnerable situations at the time they met Burkett, their circumstances varied.
Kate was outraged to learn that Crown prosecutor told Judge Michelle Daneliuk to read her victim statement to herself, and it wasn’t heard aloud in a court of law.
“When he pleads guilty, for them to not allow my voice to be heard is like the biggest slap in the face that anybody can do to any victim, period,” she said.
“This doesn’t feel like a Canadian story of justice. This feels like friendly waters for a criminal,” she added.
Kate’s victim impact statement starts by telling the judge that she did not want to be a part of this case.
“Every time the police or Elizabeth Fry (Society) contacted me about it, the only thing that kept me co-operating was that they always told me that if I didn’t, more women could be at risk of what happened to me,” she wrote.
“His actions changed me for life. He made me terrified to the point that I lost my job, my home and my sanity.”
“He abused his power for his own selfish urges, and in turn made me into a piece of meat,” Kate wrote. “His case has forever changed me and I only pray justice is served and no woman will ever be targeted by this dangerous predator again.”
The copy provided to Global News shows the box reading “I would like to present my statement in court” checked off.
Although Kate lives out of town and was not able to attend court proceedings, she said she still expected her statement to be read aloud in court.
MacDougall works with victims and is troubled by the way the victim impact statements were handled.
“We’re talking about power-based crimes where the power has been taken away from the victim,” she said. “By the victim impact statement is being read in court, being heard by everybody, is one of the vital ways that a victim can reclaim her power.”
While Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg told the judge that the women were all given the opportunity to make a victim impact statement, one of Burkett’s other victims told Global News she had not been asked for one.
The Crown is asking for the Mountie to serve six months to a year in prison, while the defence is asking for a conditional sentence served in the community.
“That’s a slap on the wrist,” Kate said. “There’s seven of us. He pled guilty. If (he) gets six months, that’s less than a month for a woman.”
Burkett is expected to be sentenced on July 27.