A former Slocan Lake police officer has been found not guilty of fraud and false pretenses. Judge Ron Fabbro today acquitted Cst. Kellie Barrie on both counts, ruling the Crown had not proven its case.
Barrie was accused of filing a phony expense claim for a stay at a Kelowna hotel on November 24, 2010, where she had gone for a medical appointment. Court heard her then-partner, Cst. Sam Nakatsu, actually paid for the room and also filed an expense claim for the same night.
However, Barrie’s lawyer said it was a simple mistake, and not an attempt to defraud the force. At the time, Nakatsu was under court order to stay away from Barrie following a domestic dispute a few weeks earlier. However, the couple decided to ignore it.
Suspicions were raised when Barrie submitted an expense form that was mostly blacked out. Barrie was charged with false pretenses in obtaining the hotel receipt, but the judge ruled that she could have reasonably obtained it having been a previous guest. Although the account was in Nakatsu’s name, it had Barrie’s email address on it. Barrie and Nakatsu were then sharing expenses.
Fabbro also found Barrie had an “honest and genuinely-held belief” that she would be reimbursed for the stay, as it was work-related.
“The accused was not shaken on her testimony and I am unable to reject her claim, which is consistent with shared expenses,” Fabbro said.
He found that she altered her hotel receipt to hide Nakatsu’s presence, but not to make an expense claim to which she was not entitled.
The Crown suggested Barrie should have checked with Nakatsu which day he had filed his claim, but the defense noted this would have further violated the no-contact order. Fabbro said he didn’t consider a case of “willful blindness.”
An RCMP sergeant testified the force’s policy about which night an officer is entitled to claim for — before or after work-related business — is vague.
“If RCMP policy is vague in the eyes of a senior officer, what can be expected of an ordinary member of the force?” Fabbro asked.
He said it raised a reasonable doubt, and acquitted her of the charges.
Barrie, who was stationed in the Kootenays from 2009 to 2011 but now works in Williams Lake, was not in court to hear the verdict.