Ralph Mackay Fraser has been ordered to pay $226,000 in compensation to a man he sucker-punched in 2008. (Black Press Media File Photo)

Ralph Mackay Fraser has been ordered to pay $226,000 in compensation to a man he sucker-punched in 2008. (Black Press Media File Photo)

Drunken sucker punch costs Vancouver Island teacher $226,000

‘Thoroughly disgraceful incident’ in 2008 left security hotel guard permanently injured

A school teacher is out more than $200,000 following a civil judgment relating to an unprovoked assault more than 13 years ago.

Ralph Mackay Fraser, who taught at Shawnigan Lake School at the time, is on the hook for $226,000 for sucker-punching a security guard at a Vancouver hotel on Feb. 17, 2008 in an unprovoked attack that derailed the young man’s hopes of becoming an RCMP officer. The civil case was decided on March 26, 2021.

Fraser, who is still employed by the school, had attended a banquet earlier that evening where he had too much to drink, in the words of Justice Robin Baird. He and several other people, including Shawnigan’s headmaster at the time, went to the lounge at the Pan Pacific Hotel after the banquet, and Fraser ended up in an argument with some other patrons that led to a scuffle.

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The security guard, Andrew Thompson, responded to a call from the bar staff, and was escorting Fraser out when Fraser punched Thompson in the face, causing severe and permanent damage to the bones around his left eye. Fraser tried to flee the scene, but was stopped by hotel staff, who held him until police arrived.

Fraser was charged with assault causing bodily harm, and later pleaded guilty in criminal court. Although the charge carries a maximum of 10 years imprisonment, Fraser was given a conditional discharge.

“He was dealt with extremely leniently,” Baird said in his judgment. “Part of the reason for this, I have no doubt, was the understanding that eventually he would have to answer for his misconduct in a civil lawsuit and, in all likelihood, pay the plaintiff a sizeable sum in damages.”

Thompson, who was 21 at the time of the incident, underwent emergency surgery that resulted in metallic gear being fused to his facial bones, causing him significant pain and discomfort when it is cold outside. He also has a screw directly beneath his left eye that he can feel with his finder and causes pain on incidental contact.

Thompson had to abandon his goal of becoming an RCMP officer, which Baird found to be “eminently achievable” if not for the incident with Fraser.

“The plaintiff impressed me as a highly intelligent, hard-working, disciplined and honest person,” Baird wrote. “Prior to the incident he was in excellent physical health. He was a world class athlete who represented Canada on multiple occasions at international karate competitions.”

Thompson instead attended a university in New York for training in criminal justice issues and landed a job as an investigator with a New York law firm, where he makes more money than he would have as an RCMP officer, as Baird acknowledged.

“Money is not the most important thing in the plaintiff’s life, however,” the judge noted. “He wanted to serve and protect the public as a peace officer. He testified that, if his facial injury could be magically healed, and the hardware in his facial bones could be removed, he would submit another application for RCMP recruitment immediately. His present employment is satisfactory, but it is not what he wanted to do with his life. To this day he feels a keen regret and even bitterness about this. I do not blame him.”

Thompson asked for $50,000 in non-pecuniary damages and $6,329.60 to make up for the two months in 2008 when he was unable to work. Baird granted the $50,000 as well as $10,000 in aggravated damages, and awarded Thompson $166,000 for lost wages between 2011 and 2017, assuming that he would have been recruited by the RCMP.

Baird acknowledged Fraser’s employment at a prestigious private school in his judgment.

“This was, in short, a thoroughly disgraceful incident,” he stated. “If the defendant is a person of any conscience, he will be immobilised by shame every time he thinks of it. I would emphasise that [Thompson] was barely older than the students, most of them full-time boarders, who are committed by their parents to the defendant’s care every day of the school year. I am amazed that he was not fired from his employment.”

Richard Lamont, who has been headmaster at Shawnigan since 2018, issued a brief statement about Fraser.

“The 2008 incident did not happen on school property and did not involve any of our students,” Lamont said. “Regardless, it is troubling. The school is deeply committed to the safety and wellbeing of its students, and we take any matter involving the conduct of a staff member extremely seriously.”

Fraser expressed his feelings in a message to the school community.

“Some of you will know of the unfortunate event of 2008,” he said. “It was resolved by the courts, the Ministry for Public Safety, BC College of Teachers and the School administration at the time. Since the event, I have felt deep remorse and will continue to do so for the rest of my career.”

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