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Independent police probe urged

16-year-old girl detained on officer's 'misleading' account
Lawyer says investigation should consider perjury charge

The Toronto Star, TRACEY TYLER, LEGAL AFFAIRS REPORTER, Jan. 6, 2004.

A lawyer has called for an outside police investigation into the case of a 16-year-old girl who was denied bail and jailed for two weeks after a Toronto officer gave a court a misleading account of a fight.

Toronto criminal lawyer Paula Rochman is asking Chief Julian Fantino to have an independent police force investigate whether the officer involved should be charged with perjury or obstructing justice.

In a letter sent to the chief yesterday, Rochman also asked that the Toronto Police Service's professional standards unit look into the matter and that the officer's immediate supervisor be informed of the facts so he can take appropriate action.

Constable Mike Hayles, a Toronto police spokesperson, said yesterday that Fantino had already asked the professional standards unit to look into the case to see how accurately a court assessed the situation in a recent decision.

In a ruling on Dec. 22, Madam Justice Sheila Ray of the Ontario Court of Justice stayed aggravated assault and weapons charges against the teen, finding that her Charter rights were violated when she was detained on the basis of a "misleading" and "embellished" account of the crime provided by the officer in charge of the case.

Detective Constable Marc Beausoleil's "sloppy" investigation and poor record-keeping, Ray said, produced an unfair, unbalanced synopsis of the crime, which led a court to wrongly conclude that the 16-year-old was the ringleader of a brutal, premeditated attack on another girl across the street from Oakwood Collegiate Institute last Feb. 4.

The officer himself conceded that his investigation was "lousy," the judge added, noting the synopsis contained 13 errors or inaccurate suggestions, including:

  • The fight was the result of a long-simmering feud, and the 16-year-old led the victim to the crime scene and hit her with a metal pipe.
  • The victim was left with a broken nose requiring surgery.
  • A mob of 20 to 30 other people was also armed with metal pipes used in the attack.

In an interview, Rochman said as far as she knows, there has been no other case in which a court has been asked to remedy a situation where an accused person was denied bail on the basis of unreasonable or misleading information. But what happened to her client isn't an isolated incident, she added.

In fact, speakers at a recent conference held by Ontario's Criminal Lawyers' Association suggested that misleading police reports could be contributing to the growing number of people held in pretrial custody. There are now Read More ..mates in Ontario jails awaiting trial than serving sentences; 62.7 per cent are charged but not convicted.

Rochman's client, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, spent two weeks in custody at the Vanier Centre for Women and was released after a bail review. Three other youths arrested in the incident were released from the police station and a fourth was set free after a bail hearing.