Johnstone reacts after McCallum found not guilty of public mischief

Surveillance video debunked ex-Surrey mayor Doug McCallum’s claims that protester Debi Johnstone used her car to pin him before speeding away, but the judge ultimately found McCallum’s false claims that Johnstone pinned him to her vehicle before speeding away were not intentional.

Debi Johnstone leaving the courthouse Oct. 31, 2022. Johnstone told the court that she voted for McCallum in 2018, but began to disagree with the way McCallum’s majority Safe Surrey Coalition rammed through bylaws, development permits and budgets | Photo: Bob Mackin

The Keep the RCMP in Surrey protester that Doug McCallum accused of running over his foot said she was disappointed by the ex-mayor’s Monday acquittal and is taking time to process it. 

“I have come to understand that the level of certainty to prove public mischief ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ is very high, even with compelling evidence,” Debi Johnstone said in a written statement late Monday. 

Provincial Court Judge Reginald Harris ruled that McCallum was not guilty of public mischief, because Special Prosecutor Richard Fowler did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that McCallum filed a false police report to get revenge against opponent Johnstone.

Harris said that he was satisfied, based on the totality of evidence, that Johnstone ran over McCallum’s foot in the Southpoint Save-On-Foods parking lot on Sept. 4, 2021, even though surveillance video was inconclusive. McCallum walked away from the confrontation without a limp and went shopping, but was treated hours later at Peace Arch Hospital for a contusion on the top of his foot and minor swelling. Expert defence witnesses testified that it was possible for a human foot to survive being run over by a car without suffering a fracture. 

“I remain adamant that I did not run over Mr. McCallum’s foot with my car,” Johnstone said. “It was not my request or my wish to be involved in a legal proceeding like this. My involvement began when Mr. McCallum chose to accuse me; the Special Prosecutor appointed to look into the matter determined that Mr. McCallum, and not I, should be charged; and I participated as a witness only, without the benefit of counsel. Although the defence chose to make this about me, I was not on trial and was not given an opportunity to defend myself.”

Johnstone testified Oct. 31 and surveillance video shown in court debunked McCallum’s claims that she used her car to pin him before speeding away. Harris agreed with McCallum’s defence lawyers that McCallum exaggerated the incident because he had been frightened, but those mis-statements were not evidence that he was trying to mislead police. 

McCallum, who lost in the Oct. 15 civic election to Brenda Locke, did not testify during the trial, which ended Nov. 9.

Johnstone told the court that she voted for McCallum in 2018, but began to disagree with the way McCallum’s majority Safe Surrey Coalition rammed through bylaws, development permits and budgets. She attended several protests at city hall and in the community, and was at the Southpoint mall on Sept. 4, 2021 to collect signatures for a petition aimed at stopping McCallum’s replacement of the RCMP with the Surrey Police Service. 

Johnstone co-operated with the police investigation and voluntarily gave a statement on the day of the incident. She admitted in court that she swore profusely at McCallum after taking advantage of the opportunity to confront him in the parking lot about his mayoralty.

“I am happy this proceeding is finally over,” Johnstone said. “This last year has been hard on my family and friends, who have loved and supported me every step of the way and for whom I am eternally grateful. I am pleased that Surrey can move forward with a new Mayor who has run on a platform of keeping the RCMP in Surrey, and who has committed to putting ethics, inclusivity and diversity first.”

McCallum has refused to say how much Surrey taxpayers were spending on his legal quartet, led by Richard Peck. 

Locke defeated McCallum by fewer than 1,000 votes. She had promised to send the legal bill to McCallum and to end the Surrey Police Service.