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Embattled former Quesnel mayor Steve Wallace dies of heart attack

Driving school owner had been facing allegations of sexual assault but charges were never sworn
Steve Wallace
Driving-school instructor Steve Wallace had been in the public eye over allegations of sexual assault, but charges were never laid.

Victoria driving school owner and instructor and former Quesnel mayor Steve Wallace has died of a heart attack.

Wallace’s wife, Joan, confirmed his death in an email Friday morning.

“With a heavy heart I share with you that my devoted husband of 48 years Steve Wallace passed away at Royal Jubilee Hospital after suffering a heart attack,” she wrote, requesting privacy for herself and the driving school they built together over 45 years.

“While it has been a difficult period of time in recent months, I am grateful that he had the opportunity to finally experience the relief from the allegations against him not being pursued, and look to better days ahead.”

Wallace, who was mayor of Quesnel from 1990 to 2002, had been in the public eye in recent months over allegations of sexual assault. On Wednesday, the B.C. Prosecution Service said that after a full review, it had concluded no charges would proceed against Wallace.

Victoria lawyer Dale ­Marshall, who was representing Wallace, said he was shocked and saddened when he received the news Thursday night from Wallace’s family. “Steve was a healthy 72-year-old who was under a lot of stress as a result of these allegations and the surrounding media ­coverage without a criminal charge ever being approved,” said Marshall.

“Let’s be clear that, after a careful review of the evidence, Crown counsel refused to approve a criminal charge. From what I have seen and read, that comes as no surprise.”

Marshall said it is “most unfortunate” that the allegations received so much attention in the media and on social media before the Crown had a chance to determine if there was a substantial likelihood of proving that a criminal offence had occurred.

The lawyer said he doesn’t support publication of an individual’s name before charges are approved, except in the ­“rarest of cases.”

“In my 32 years of experience as a lawyer, I have witnessed first-hand the irreparable harm that can result from the publication of a suspect’s name and allegations before charges are approved or proven in court. The damage to their reputation, family and business is done and often irreversible,” he said.

Marshall said social media has compounded the problem, as often complaints and comments are made anonymously and the accused person has no ability to defend themselves.

“The court of public opinion often comes to a verdict without the benefit of the entire story. And that is troubling.”

The Insurance Corp. of B.C. was also investigating Wallace Driving School, the Crown corporation said Thursday.

ICBC’s actions are not related to or affected by any actions undertaken by police or the Crown, it said.