Legal troubles pursue ex-cop

How much more time former Cayman Islands police officer Richard Hanna will be spending on island likely won’t be known until his January sentencing on 14 counts of theft.

But he’s facing more legal trouble whenever he does get back to his native Canada.

Mr. Hanna has been named, among more than a dozen people, businesses and government entities, in a civil lawsuit filed in Toronto on behalf of that city’s former director of municipal licensing, Pamela Coburn.

In the suit, Ms Coburn claims she was wrongfully fired and defamed by city officials and blames that defamation partly on Mr. Hanna.

‘Ms Coburn…was investigating reports that city by-law inspectors were being physically intimidated by tow truck operators, possibly with the help of Mr. Hanna who was then with the Toronto police,’ said Murray Klippenstein, an attorney whose firm is representing Ms Coburn in the lawsuit. ‘It appears to her that when she started uncovering connections in her own department she was set up — and fired by the city.’

When contacted by the Caymanian Compass on Wednesday, Mr. Hanna declined to comment on the lawsuit.

However, in a statement of defence filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Mr. Hanna calls the allegation that he interfered with city licensing inspectors ‘a complete load of nonsense.’

In 2004, a Toronto vehicle licensing inspector accused Mr. Hanna of backing up a group of angry tow truck drivers at an auto repair shop the inspector was investigating. The inspector said he was threatened by the drivers, and that Mr. Hanna questioned his right to be at the shop.

The statement of defence on behalf of Mr. Hanna claims the city inspector had been attempting to elicit a bribe from the auto shop owner, although Mr. Hanna stated the inspector later denied that claim.

An investigation into that incident and others involving licensing inspectors began. In July 2005, Ms Coburn suspended three senior staff members in her department after inspectors claimed supervisors did not back them up in their investigations.

During the probe, allegations surfaced that Ms Coburn was involved in a relationship with a man she’d promoted to second-in-command of the licensing department. The matter eventually led to Ms Coburn’s firing in September 2005, though she denied all allegations of impropriety. Her second-in-command, Joseph Carnevale, was also fired.

Ms Coburn filed the lawsuit against the city of Toronto, its Mayor David Miller, the Globe and Mail newspaper, Mr. Hanna and others in June 2006.

Mr. Hanna told the Toronto Star newspaper in 2005 that he was being made a scapegoat for the city hall scandal.

The newspaper had reported that the former Toronto cop quit amid a police internal affairs investigation into allegations that he was directing damaged cars from accident scenes to certain auto body shops in return for kickbacks.

‘They’re trying to throw a police officer under a bus to take the focus off the sex scandal at city hall,’ Mr. Hanna told the Star in 2005. ‘I see this as a very serious slander against me.’

In the statement of defence filed with the Ontario court, Mr. Hanna said those statements to the Star did not specifically refer to Ms Coburn.

Mr. Hanna resigned from the Toronto Police Service in July 2005 and started his job in Cayman shortly afterward. He was never charged with any crime in Toronto, and was given a clean record by the department.

Mr. Klippenstein said his client intended to prove otherwise in court.

‘Ms Coburn included him (Mr. Hanna) in the lawsuit for defamation, as well as various others, so that she can get to the bottom of a somewhat complex and mysterious set of events,’ he said. ‘Mr. Hanna seems to have been involved.’

Ms Coburn is seeking close to $11 million in damages in her lawsuit; some $100,000 of that is being demanded of Mr. Hanna.

Hiring decision

Mr. Hanna was hired as a police constable at the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service in the summer of 2005 and served about seven months of his two year contract as the community police officer for North Side District.

The theft allegations he was convicted of earlier this month involved cash and cheques the former cop had received from district residents during fundraisers for North Side Primary School and then for the school’s Year Six students.

Mr. Hanna did not dispute that the money from the fundraisers did not belong to him. He told the court he was holding $3,228.94 for books for the school. He said he did not turn the money over because he had learned that the school wanted to buy playground equipment with it, and he had told people the money was for books.

He also held over $4,000 donated for the Year Six class trip, saying he intended it for the following year’s graduates.

It’s not clear how much the RCIPS knew about Mr. Hanna’s past employment with the Toronto Police Service when he was hired in Cayman.

A previous statement was issued by RCIPS concerning Mr. Hanna’s hiring.

‘Mr. Hanna’s application was vetted through a series of processes, which included interviewing his supervisor, confirming reference letters, obtaining his latest annual appraisal and checking his background against criminal convictions. All of these processes were done with favourable success on the part of Mr. Hanna,’ the RCIPS statement read.

A reporter for the Toronto Star newspaper said Caymanian authorities might have difficulty obtaining details of the police internal affairs investigation in Canada due to that country’s privacy laws.

Ms Coburn’s lawsuit was not made public until 2006, after Mr. Hanna began working for the RCIPS. There were newspaper articles published in Toronto about allegations surrounding the vehicle inspections and licensing issues, but again Mr. Hanna was never charged with any crimes there and resigned from the police department with a clean record.