Ex-Surrey Mayor McCallum stood with his legal team in Surrey Provincial Court, wiped tears from his eyes and gave a thumbs up sign to a supporter Monday after a judge acquitted him of public mischief.
“I am pleased with the decision, and I want to thank my lawyers for their tremendous efforts in this case,” McCallum said outside the courthouse. “I want to give a very special thanks to my family for understanding and supporting me. To the people of Surrey, I love you. I love all of you."
McCallum accused a Keep the RCMP in Surrey protester of running over his left foot on Sept. 4, 2021 in the Southpoint Save-On-Foods parking lot. RCMP instead investigated McCallum for making a false report and a special prosecutor charged him last December.
“In considering all of the evidence, I find that Mr. McCallum's left foot was run over and that [Debi] Johnstone did not stop when this occurred,” said Judge Reginald Harris in his oral verdict. “Accordingly, Mr. McCallum's statement to the police regarding his foot being run over was truthful and not made with the intention of falsely accusing Ms. Johnstone of an offence.”
Harris heard the case from Oct. 31 to Nov. 9. McCallum, who lost in the Oct. 15 civic election to Brenda Locke, did not testify.
Harris said he was satisfied that Johnstone and McCallum were in the parking lot coincidentally: Johnstone to seek signatures for a petition to end McCallum’s replacement of the RCMP with the Surrey Police Service, and McCallum to shop for groceries.
Johnstone, he said, “stalked and tracked” someone she thought was McCallum and then, without warning, commenced a “verbal assault” when she confirmed it was the mayor.
Video evidence played in court was inconclusive about contact between Johnstone’s right rear tire and McCallum’s lower leg. McCallum did appear to move his body when the vehicle moved, though he did not appear to limp away from the scene. He was later treated at Peace Arch Hospital for swelling and a contusion on top of his foot. Expert witnesses told the court that absence of a fracture did not mean McCallum had not been run over.
“In summary, the physical evidence, the medical evidence, the video, Mr. McCallum's conduct after the event and his claims convincingly lead to the conclusion that it was run over,” Harris ruled.
As for motive, Harris said he could not conclude that McCallum sought revenge against frequent protester Johnstone.
“Mr. McCallum is an experienced politician who, in his words, has thick skin. I interpret this to mean that he is accustomed to being the target of negative attention,” he said. “Thus it is unlikely, that this particular case, even with his earlier experiences, would frustrate him to such a degree that he would immediately embark on revenge through a labyrinth of false claims.”
He noted that McCallum was co-operative with both police and hospital staff, and that it would “defy logic” for him to attempt to mislead police while demanding they obtain the parking lot surveillance video showing the incident.
“That would show him to be a categorical liar and destroy his efforts to mislead,” Harris said.
Harris also ruled McCallum’s false claims that Johnstone pinned him to her vehicle before speeding away were not intentional.
“I do not see Mr. McCallum's perceptions regarding speed and acceleration as significant in all of the circumstances. In my view, his statements reflect reasonable perceptions and not evidence capable of supporting an inference that he was trying to mislead the police.”
Mystery surrounds the cost of McCallum’s legal bills, which are covered by taxpayers under an indemnification bylaw. Locke vowed to recoup the cost of McCallum’s defence.
McCallum’s legal quartet included high-profile downtown Vancouver lawyers Richard Peck and Eric Gottardi, who defended Huawei executive Meng Wenzhou in extradition proceedings at B.C. Supreme Court.