Former Kelowna cop pleads guilty to breach of trust, defence seeks conditional sentence

Burkett may avoid jail time

A former Kelowna RCMP officer pleaded guilty to one count of breach of trust by an officer in Kelowna court Wednesday morning, but he may avoid jail time altogether.

Brian Burkett was charged in July 2019 with seven counts of breach of trust for “pursuing a sexual relationship” with seven women in connection with his duties between October 2015 and August 2016.

Wednesday morning, Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg altered the charge against Burkett by combining all seven allegations against the former officer into one breach of trust charge, to which Burkett then pleaded guilty to. The BC Prosecution Service would not explain why the prosecutor opted to do this, as the matter remains before the courts.

During the sentencing submissions that followed Burkett's guilty plea, Wiberg said the Crown is seeking a jail sentence of six months to one year for Burkett.

Burkett's defence counsel Wade Jenson argued a conditional sentence of six to 12 months would be appropriate. A conditional sentence is served outside of a jail, usually under house-arrest conditions.

During submissions, Wiberg briefly laid out the circumstances of the seven allegations against Burkett.

The multi-year investigation into Burkett began after one woman went to the police with a complaint about the officer's conduct. Investigators looked through Burkett's phone and found text messages that led to the identification of six other victims.

Burkett had met all of the seven women through his work as an officer, and many had been in vulnerable positions when he began sending them sexually suggestive texts and naked photos of himself.

Two of the women had been recent victims of domestic assaults when Burkett first met them, while another had contacted police about being harassed by her ex-boyfriend. Wiberg said another had been suicidal, and needed hospitalization prior to Burkett meeting her, but that woman has denied those circumstances in a civil lawsuit.

While the criminal charges Burkett pleaded guilty to include allegations that he sent sexually explicit text messages and naked photos of himself to the seven woman, one of the seven spoke in court during sentencing submissions Wednesday, and said Burkett's actions went much further than that.

After she was arrested by Burkett for driving while prohibited in February 2016, Michelle* claims Burkett implied to her that he could make the charge go away if she had sex with him.

“I had just rebuilt my life, I had a good job, and I was pretty much willing to do anything to make this traffic thing go away,” Michelle said in court.

“I met up with him and had sex with him in his car, that was the deal, that he would help make the charge go away. That didn't happen. And I have to live with the embarrassment and the guilt and the shame that I did that.

“I was absolutely terrified to report it, because like he said 'No one's going to believe you' ... I've been living in fear for years now, I have absolutely no trust or faith in the people who are meant to protect us."

She said her encounter with Burkett led to her relapsing after being clean from drugs for several years, which then led to a suicide attempt. She said she's since had her house broken into, but she was scared to call the police.

“The RCMP is the biggest gang in the country and I don't know who his friends are,” she said.

Michelle filed a civil suit against Burkett in September 2020, claiming damages for sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking and blackmail. Burkett has not filed a response to the civil suit.

Michelle's suit is one of four civil claims Burkett is facing. While the criminal charge stems from incidents in 2015 and 2016, one of the suits alleges sexual harassment dating back to 2012 when Burkett worked at the Duncan RCMP. He was hired as an officer in 2007.

Burkett quit the force in 2017, after an RCMP internal code of conduct hearing had been scheduled for the officer. He initially elected to a trial in BC Supreme Court, before deciding to plead guilty.

Following sentencing submissions Wednesday, Burkett addressed the court.

Throughout his two-minute statement, he spoke about how the allegations against him have impacted his own life, calling the experience “the most humbling and scariest and humiliating part of his life.”

He blamed the media's coverage of his case for straining his relationship with his children.

Despite apologizing to Judge Daneliuk for his “actions,” he never mentioned the seven women he victimized.

“He never said he was sorry for what he did to us, it was about his family and his career,” Michelle said following sentencing submissions. “What about my life, and the trauma that I and my other girls ... what about what we've had to do, we're terrified.”

Judge Daneliuk reserved judgment on sentencing Wednesday, and will likely deliver a decision later this summer. Burkett remains out of custody.

*Michelle is not the woman's real name. The identity of all seven victims are protected under a publication ban.

More Kelowna News