The RCMP could face yet another malicious prosecution lawsuit after the commanding officer of “E” Division proceeded with a conduct hearing against a Chilliwack member in a way that may have been unethical.
That was part of the blunt final comment of RCMP Conduct Board member Gerald Annetts in his decision in late 2019 clearing RCMP Inspector Sukhjit Manj of four allegations made against him.
Manj and his wife Cpl. Tammy Hollingsworth were both suspended on Sept. 18, 2017 based on allegations that they used their positions in the RCMP to find out intimate details about another officer involved in a domestic dispute while they were stationed in Lloydminster, Alta.
Hollingsworth was cleared of wrongdoing after an RCMP conduct hearing held in September 2018. She filed a lawsuit against the RCMP in October 2019.
“Why are we here?” was Manj’s question in his closing submission at his hearing held from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4, 2019.
The response from the representative for the conduct authority, the Commanding Officer of “E” Division, was that each of the allegations against Manj “has a conflict in the evidence, that’s why we’re here.”
Annetts’s response to that was that it was not an appropriate test to initiate or continue such a serious hearing against a police officer.
“I will remind Conduct Authorities and their representatives that they have the role of prosecutor in these proceedings,” Annetts wrote in part in his written decision Manj forwarded to The Progress.
In criminal proceedings, Crown counsel routinely reassess evidence in a given case to determine if charges should be dropped in the public interest.
Annetts quoted from a Court of Appeal decision that stated professional disciplinary bodies, similar to public prosecutors, are not immune from malicious prosecution lawsuits.
“It goes without saying that if a prosecutor in disciplinary proceedings can be held liable for malicious prosecution like a prosecutor in criminal proceedings, then his or her ethical responsibilities are similar to those of a prosecutor in criminal proceedings.”
In rejecting all four allegations, Annetts found almost all witnesses other than Manj lacked credibility.
Despite a long and personal battle with upper brass at the RCMP, Manj said he has not yet decided to file a lawsuit for malicious prosecution as Hollingsworth already has. He said he is in negotiations with the force to be reinstated in his job “on my terms.”
If that doesn’t work, a lawsuit is possible.
“I am hopeful that the RCMP will recognize the errors which were made in Tammy and my situation,” he said. “I am also hopeful that I can be a part of the necessary changes within the Conduct process so this does not happen to any of our employees.”
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