A former Vancouver police detective publicly apologized for kissing and betraying the trust of a teenage girl and a 21-year-old woman at his sentencing hearing on Friday.
James Fisher told provincial court he is “embarrassed and ashamed” as he apologized to the two young women, the Vancouver Police Department and the Crown.
The teenager was 17 when he kissed her on three occasions for up to 10 minutes. Fisher said he regretted causing her to lose her faith in police.
“I know that she trusted me and for the rest of my life I’ll regret that breach of trust,” he said. “I offer no excuses or justification. It was wrong and I want to publicly apologize to both of them.”
Fisher has pleaded guilty to three charges, including breach of trust and sexual exploitation for kissing the teenager, and breach of trust for kissing the young woman.
Before his arrest and subsequent retirement, Fisher was a 29-year veteran of the force and a member of a team that investigates prostitution, criminal exploitation and child sex abuse.
The sexual exploitation charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days in jail.
The Crown recommended Fisher serve 18 to 20 months of jail time, followed by probation, while the defence asked that Fisher serve his mandatory minimum sentence on weekends and be given conditional sentences for the other two charges.
The girl who was 17 when Fisher kissed her said in a victim impact statement that the officer’s actions caused her to relapse with a drug addiction and drop out of school.
“Those memories are still some of the most painful ones of my life,” she said in a video played for the court. “It feels like the ultimate breach of trust from someone when I was most vulnerable.”
The court heard recorded conversations in which Fisher admitted kissing both complainants.
The teenage girl complained to Vancouver police in the spring of 2016 and the department initiated an investigation. She agreed to allow police to record her phone calls.
In the summer of 2016, Fisher learned that a false rumour was circulating in the department that he’d had sex with the girl, Crown lawyer Amanda Starno told court.
Fisher asked his friend in the department to interview the girl — a plan investigators thought was questionable, but one they approved in order to record the conversation, court heard.
He called the girl, then 18, just before his friend was scheduled to interview her. His voice shook and he breathed heavily during the phone call, which was played for the court.
Fisher urged her to tell the officer that she either didn’t remember saying they’d had sex, or that she’d said it while she was high, and that intercourse never happened either way.
She agreed not to say anything that would get him in trouble. But she told him she was hurt by the kissing and “it didn’t seem right that a police officer was making out with me.”
“I never, ever meant to hurt you,” Fisher replied. “I thought that it was mutual, and when I did see it wasn’t, I stopped. … I’m sorry.”
Defence lawyer William Smart said Fisher called the girl at her request and by telling her to say she was high or didn’t remember falsely saying they’d had sex, he was counselling her to tell the truth.
Smart provided 11 letters to the judge about Fisher’s character, including one written by his daughter, who was in the courtroom. His former Vancouver police colleagues wrote that he was highly respected and hard-working, often working through the night and neglecting his home life.
The defence lawyer also disputed the Crown’s assertion that his client misled police in a stabbing investigation involving the 21-year-old woman he kissed.
The Crown said the woman told Fisher she had stabbed someone, but he misled the investigating officer by providing an outdated phone number for the woman and describing her as a witness.
But Smart said Fisher thought at the time the woman was only a witness. She told him later that she had carried out the stabbing, but he believed she was covering for someone, Smart said.
Police ultimately granted her immunity for the crime and she agreed to help with their investigation into Fisher in the fall of 2016. She recorded her conversation with Fisher in a coffee shop.
In the recording, Fisher assured her he had said nothing about her involvement in the stabbing and repeatedly asked her not to tell him anything more.
The woman said she “opened up” to him the last time they spoke and she was shocked when he kissed her. It left her feeling shaken, she told him.
“I trusted you. … Why did you kiss me?” the woman asked. “I looked up to you like a father.”
“I shouldn’t have done that. I apologize for that,” Fisher responded.
The woman said in her victim impact statement that she used to joke about Fisher walking her down the aisle someday. But the kissing transformed her from a happy, upbeat person to a negative, depressed drug addict, she said.
“My life went downhill fast.”
Laura Kane , The Canadian Press