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Judge trims claims against RCMP in Surrey lawsuit alleging wrongful investigation

Lawsuit claims City of Surrey wrongfully pressured four land owners to sell property
Statue of Lady Justice at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. (File photo)

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has struck some claims made against “RCMP defendants” in a notice of civil claim filed by four Surrey property owners who allege police conducted wrongful searches on their land and that the City of Surrey wrongfully pressured them to sell their 2.2 acre property.

The RCMP defendants dispute the “legal sufficiency” of the claims made against them and applied to the court to have the action dismissed against them.

The plaintiffs essentially claim they were subjected to unfounded allegations they were growing marijuana on their property which led to an unlawful investigation and their electricity being disconnected.

Justice Geoffrey Gomery, in his Dec. 29 reasons for judgment, noted they allege the investigation was undertaken “to assist an unidentified developer to acquire their property at a discount.”

“They plead causes of action including conspiracy, misfeasance in public office, trespass, and others against the City of Surrey, British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority, and various persons the plaintiffs have not yet been able to identify,” the judge noted following a videoconference in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

The claims against the RCMP defendants included trespass, breach of Charter rights, negligence and gross negligence, dishonesty, injurious falsehood, nuisance and invasion of privacy, conspiracy, misfeasance in public office, and misfeasance.

“Misfeasance in public office requires a plaintiff to prove that a public officer engaged in deliberate and unlawful conduct in his or her capacity as a public officer, being aware that the conduct was unlawful and was likely to harm the plaintiff,” Gomery explained.

The judge ordered that references in the notice of civil claim to alleged breach of rights, dishonesty, nuisance and invasion of privacy, conspiracy, and references to “bare” misfeasance or malfeasance be struck.

“The plaintiffs may seek leave to amend to address claims I have struck on the basis of further factual allegations,” Gomery decided.

Gomery found the claim of trespass should not be struck, nor should the claim of injurious falsehood or misfeasance in public office.

“It is not plain and obvious that the negligence claim is bound to fail,” he added. “The applicants do not suggest that the gross negligence claim should fall even if the negligence claim stands. Neither claim will be struck.”

READ ALSO: Surrey property owners accuse City of ‘wrongfully’ pressuring them to sell

The plaintiffs in Sandhu v. City of Surrey – Rajindar, Balwinder, Sandip and Harinder Sandhu – earlier applied to add the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General for B.C., and two RCMP officers to the list of defendants, which include the City of Surrey, British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority, Jane Doe, John Doe I, II, III and ABC Company Ltd.

Master Leslie Muir granted that order. The plaintiffs allege the RCMP in 2015-16 conducted wrongful searches on the property, allegedly on the basis that an electrical fire and safety inspection (EFSIT) search was warranted.

Muir noted in his reasons for judgment in July 2019 that the plaintiffs allege “a developer who was working on the adjacent property was trying to pressure them to sell the property to him and that, in doing so, he somehow obtained the cooperation of the City of Surrey (the “City”), who acted wrongly to pressure the plaintiffs to sell the property.”

The plaintiffs, Muir noted, submitted that EFSIT “only initiates investigations and inspects properties that are high power consumption properties and that the power consumption on the property in question was way below the threshold where EFSIT would be warranted.

“The plaintiffs further allege that the City caused British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority to terminate electrical service to the property, and after that, these warrantless and allegedly groundless searches were conducted.”

The City of Surrey replied in its response to the civil action that it had received information “from the RCMP about the existence of a marijuana growing operation on the property” but the plaintiffs question the bona fides of the City’s pleadings.

The remaining claims in the lawsuit have yet to be proven or disproven in court.

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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