Dr. Dawg

Scandalizing the court

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“In the criminal justice system,” the Law and Order voiceover intones, “the people are represented by two separate but equally important groups: the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys [it’s an American show] who prosecute the offenders.”

Hold on a minute. Shouldn’t that be “alleged offenders?” It sounds rather like a relay as it’s expressed, passing the baton, and making a bit of a mockery of the word “separate.”

A front-page Globe & Mail story this morning tells us that Peel police habitually perjure themselves. Fed-up judges are tossing cases, ruling that the police have been lying and intimidating their victims.

But how do these cases make it to court? Well, as we have seen right here in Ottawa with the appalling Stacy Bonds case, Crown prosecutors will go to tremendous lengths to back up their friends in blue. Prosecutors and police tend to be much more clubby than they ought to be—in Ottawa, they have sociable beers together at the St. Louis Bar and Grill on Elgin Street—and a lot of mutual backscratching takes place. As a result, the public interest takes a beating, as it were.

Back, though, to Peel County:

In the latest ruling, a judge found that Peel Regional police officers stripped a suspect naked to show him who was boss, and provided false testimony to conceal their misconduct.

Earlier this month, a judge found that Peel officers had misled the courts into believing that a suspected pimp, Courtney Salmon, was caught with fake documentation to identify a 17-year-old stripper as over 18.

Charges against the perjurers? Internal police investigations? Fuhgeddaboudit.

[M]any officers who are criticized by judges avoid criminal charges or internal discipline because the force tends not to review their conduct unless the local Crown office requests it, which it does not always do.

And here is a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney-General:

“While there is no formal process, where there are issues relating to a witness officer’s testimony, the Crown may bring it to the attention of police,” said Brendan Crawley…. “It is done on a case by case basis, and we do not track this.” [emphasis added]

Meanwhile, Peel has set a kind of benchmark:

Defence lawyers roll their eyes at the mention of Peel and its attitude toward law enforcement.

“I hate doing cases out in Peel,” said defence lawyer Susan Von Achten. “By and large, I wouldn’t trust the majority of Peel cops as far as I could throw them. I tell my clients to move away from Peel. Once they have been arrested, they are harassed and harassed and harassed.”

Defence counsel Reid Rusonik said Peel police officers are rarely held accountable.

“For years, judges have been finding on a regular basis that police witnesses have lied,” Mr. Rusonik said. “This false testimony has been given in one building and on the watch of one Crown office. None of these dozens and dozens of officers have been charged.”

Who will protect us from those who “serve and protect?” Not, it seems, the Crown, busy “prosecuting the offenders.” Those on the wrong side of a billy club or a false allegation are on their own, and no doubt several are now in jail—as Guy Paul Morin once was.*

Are the police out of control? Wrong question. Here’s a better one: What control, precisely, are they out of?

* “Guy Paul Morin [was convicted] in the 1984 rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl after a gruelling, nine-month trial. Mr. Morin was later exonerated, and a public inquiry found that prosecutors were devoid of objectivity, and displayed ‘staggering’ tunnel vision.

“The Crown office’s close relationship with the Peel police creates a potential problem when it comes to officers who have been disparaged by a judge….”

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on June 28, 2011 9:58 AM.

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