A BC Supreme Court judge has said it “makes absolutely no sense” for Julie Berg to have to try to personally fund her participation at the public hearing into her complaint about her brother’s death. Justice Stromberg-Stein made the comment at the end of a hearing to address whether an “agreed” statement of facts had been properly admitted at the public hearing.

The judge also suggested that legislative changes to the Police Act were overdue, and that any such changes would “hopefully” grant complainants a greater right to participate at public hearings.

Julie Berg has been fighting for over four years to obtain accountability for an incident that occurred on October 22, 2000. Her brother Jeff, 37, a man with no criminal record, no history of violence, no drugs or alcohol in his system and who was unarmed, died after he was confronted by Cst. David Bruce-Thomas of the Vancouver Police Department. Jeff sustained serious injuries in the incident, including bruises to his face, head, neck and testicle, while Cst. Bruce-Thomas was unscathed. Civilian eyewitnesses have testified under oath that they saw a police officer kicking him while he was motionless on the ground, testimony corroborated by forensic pathologist Dr. Laurel Gray. Jeff died in hospital of a traumatic aneurysm sustained to his carotid artery. His death was ruled a homicide by a coroner’s jury.

Following a lengthy investigation by Cst. Bruce-Thomas’ VPD colleagues, no criminal charges were laid against him. Cst. Bruce-Thomas has received the support of VPD Chief Jamie Graham, who suggested publicly that Jeff deserved the treatment he received at the hands (and feet) of the police. Graham suggested that he and the three acquaintances Jeff was with had been involved in a “home invasion”, although none of them were convicted of any such offence and no reliable evidence has ever been offered in court that a home invasion occurred.

The public hearing ended on December 17, 2004 and a decision is expected in January. Publicly funded lawyers attended the lengthy hearing to represent the interests of the Police Complaint Commissioner, Cst. Bruce-Thomas, the VPD and the Vancouver Police Union. Ms. Berg was unable to obtain public funding for legal counsel.