Vancouver lawyer Richard Fowler has been appointed as a special prosecutor to assist the RCMP with their investigation into an alleged assault involving Surrey's mayor.
Mayor Doug McCallum says he was verbally assaulted and his foot was 'run over' by a vehicle while out grocery shopping on Sept. 4. In a statement the following day, he said the matter was under police investigation.
Police said the incident took place during a "Keep the RCMP in Surrey'' gathering.
According to the B.C. Prosection Service, they received the request from B.C. RCMP last week, during the early stages of the investigation.
Assistant deputy attorney general Peter Juk decided that, in light of the allegations, the mayor's position as a public official and the transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force in Surrey, that a special prosecutor should be appointed to avoid any potential for real or perceived influence during the investigation.
Special prosecutors are appointed when it is considered in the public interest to have legal advice provided to investigators by independent counsel.
Vancouver lawyer Kyla Lee told CBC News that this appointment is unsurprising due to the ongoing conversation regarding the introduction of a municipal police force and removal of RCMP in Surrey, a move that was one of McCallum's primary election promises in 2018.
"That relationship essentially requires that a special prosecutor be appointed to review everything because it would really call into question the integrity of the justice system if that step were not taken in these circumstances," she said.
Lee said in most circumstances, there wouldn't be a situation where individuals exercise their political influence over investigators, and investigators likely wouldn't "bow to the whims" of politicians, but special prosecutors are brought in to ensure public confidence in the integrity of the process.
"The concern is there would be some level, or could be some level, of influence by the mayor over the police and how they handle the investigation."
She said the decision whether to approve charges will be based on the same standard that would apply to all British Columbians.
Special prosecutors are generally experienced lawyers in private practice. Fowler, a criminal defence lawyer based in downtown Vancouver, was co-counsel on the successful defence of former B.C. Premier Glen Clark when he was charged with breach of trust and fraud.