Kudos to Andrew Kurjata at the CBC and the Tyee for breaking the story about former Burns Lake mayor Luke Strimbold.
They got a tip, acted on it, and then reported it to the community-at-large, which is what good journalism is all about. They did their job.
If a journalist hadn’t called and asked, one might wonder if we would have ever learned the former mayor of the community and a high-ranking member of the B.C. Liberal party was charged with 24 sex-related charges allegedly involved four different people.
The Burns Lake RCMP certainly weren’t going to tell the community they serve.
Strimbold was charged February 3 but the Burns Lake RCMP didn’t issue a statement about the charges until March 2, when the CBC called. The RCMP statement issued by the RCMP said they were concerned there might be more victims and urged anyone with information to come forward. If the RCMP were serious about possibly finding more alleged victims, then maybe, just maybe, they could have issued that public plea when charges were officially sworn against Strimbold.
But they didn’t. They chose to keep the matter under wraps until they were forced to divulge the information.
The RCMP told the CBC they didn’t feel it was necessary to inform the public of Strimbold’s arrest on Feb. 3.
Police said the investigation was “progressing well” following the former mayor’s arrest.
“The RCMP continually assesses and reviews the information that can be released against the need to further a police investigation,” the RCMP told the RCMP.
Of course that kind of flies in the face of the fact that when they were forced to make it public, they issued call for more victims to come forward.
They said the public was not at risk. Perhaps not, but the community has a right to be informed.
Never mind that Strimbold is high profile member of the community, Burns Lake residents, or residents of any community, should be informed of someone facing 24 sex-related charges. Not making the charges public certainly leaves the door open to speculation that the charges were not divulged because Strimbold is a high profile community member.
And it gets worse. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, who could ask the RCMP some tough questions and actually get answers, isn’t going to do that.
“Those are operational decisions by the RCMP,” Farnworth told the Tyee. “At this moment this case is before the courts and the police make those operational decisions and given the circumstances they made the appropriate decisions.”
Farnworth went on to say: “The individual is not a public official any further. Had they been it would have been appropriate to say that he had been charged right away while he still held office.”
Not quite which section of the Criminal Code that is under, but it must be there … right?
Once again, when someone is facing charges as serious as the ones Strimbold is facing, the community has a right to know …. whether it’s the former mayor or a bum on the street.
The BC Prosecution Service has gone overboard the other way, appointing a Special Prosecutor to the case because of Strimbold’s ties to the BC Liberals. That’s probably going a little bit overboard, but it at least recognizes the fact that this is a high-profile case and not only does everything have to be done right, it has to be seen to be done right.
Once again, kudos to a working media, without whom the public would still be in the dark.