Vancouver police refused to clean up their act even after reports of feces, vomit and blood smeared across jail-cell walls led a British Columbia judge to demand more hygienic lockup conditions for two prisoners, says a lawyer.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bruce ordered the Vancouver Police Department to provide more sanitary accommodations, along with proper food and bedding, for terror suspects John Nuttall and Amanda Korody. The pair began spending their nights in the Downtown Eastside facility when jurors started deliberations on Sunday.
"It was reported to me by my client that the conditions were horrendous and unhygienic: blood smeared on the walls, a toilet that was disgusting, a thin blanket for overnight, no food," said Korody's lawyer Mark Jette on Thursday.
"Leaving aside the fact that it's disgusting, it's not healthy," he added. "Who knows what diseases those things may contain. You may end up infecting someone with HIV or tuberculosis."
A jury found Nuttall and his wife Korody guilty on Tuesday of planting homemade pressure-cooker bombs on the front lawn of the B.C. legislature on Canada Day two years ago.
While Bruce's order to the Vancouver police carried no legal weight, Jette said it was an attempt to assert "moral authority" — an attempt that ultimately failed.
"We were advised later that day through the court registry that the Vancouver jail would not meet the criteria set out in (the judge's) direction," said Jette. "So they just frankly refused."
As a result, the jury's schedule was shortened to accommodate transporting Nuttall and Korody to and from their remand centres, in Coquitlam and Maple Ridge, respectively.
But Vancouver police spokesman Const. Brian Montague said in a statement late Friday that reports that police have refused a court order are incorrect.
"The VPD was not provided with, and had no knowledge of, an official notice about these allegations," he said, adding an investigation had been launched.
However, he said after reviewing jail logs and video, the claims reported in the media appear at this point to be completely unfounded.
Nuttall and Korody spent a total of two nights in separate cells at the Vancouver lockup.
"I'm of the view that the way we treat our prisoners is a reflection of the degree of civility of our country," said Nuttall's lawyer Marilyn Sandford, who explained that her client had complained of the same cell conditions as Korody.
"I think it reflects very poorly on the city and that there's no excuse for it."
Vancouver police have estimated the number of prisoners who move through the city jail at roughly 14,000 per year.
Montague said the VPD cells aren't meant for long-term incarceration.
"Keep in mind the jail is a place that not only houses prisoners for short periods, but where many VPD staff work daily. Obviously we would want it to be kept to an appropriate standard."
The Ministry of Justice said in an email that police have sole responsibility for their own lockups and it's an established practice for sheriffs to take an accused to a local facility if a jury sits late.
Doug King, a lawyer who has taken on many police-accountability cases, drew a link between unsanitary cell conditions and the underlying issue of jails being forced to grapple with inadequate resources.
"Especially when you talk about cleanliness issues and general upkeep of the jail, if the guards and staff are not capable of doing that, that's a pretty good indication that they're understaffed or under-resourced," he said.
Earlier this year Vancouver police dismissed a complaint from a man claiming a similar experience to that of Nuttall and Korody.
"He alleged that the wagon smelled of urine and feces, the jail cells were dirty, and that the food provided to him was inadequate," read a report to the Vancouver Police Board.
Police said this was the first such complaint they had received.