Court Rules in Favour of SIU Fingerprinting Policy
Case Number: SCverdict
Mississauga (14 April, 2015) --- The Superior Court of Justice ruled last week that compelling two Ottawa Police Service (OPS) officers charged with an offence by the SIU to attend at the SIU’s offices in Mississauga to be fingerprinted and photographed did not violate their rights. A copy of the decision can be found posted on the SIU’s website at the following link: http://siu.on.ca/pdfs/r._v._blonde_and_cavan_2015_onsc_2113.pdf.
On November 1, 2014, the SIU charged OPS officers Erin Cavan and Jordan Blonde with assault, contrary to section 266 of the Criminal Code. Summonses were served on the officers compelling their attendance in court to answer to the charges and further compelling their attendance at the SIU’s offices in Mississauga to have their fingerprints and photographs taken pursuant to the Identification of Criminals Act. The officers objected to having to travel to the SIU, claiming they were being treated differently and in an unreasonable manner compared to non-police officer accused persons who typically had their fingerprints taken in the same region in which their alleged offences occurred. They further argued that requiring them to attend at the SIU violated their Charter right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. The officers filed an application before the court to quash the summons.
Justice Patrick Smith heard the arguments on February 2, 2015. In his decision released April 7, 2015, Justice Smith dismissed the officers’ application. Justice Smith found favour with the reasons underlying the SIU’s policy of requiring charged officers to attend at the SIU for fingerprinting and photographs, namely, to ensure operational readiness and to safeguard the SIU’s independence. Justice Smith wrote, “With only eight forensic investigators available for the over 350 investigations the SIU commences per year in a province as large as Ontario, the director is required to ensure that those investigations are not jeopardized by poor resource management.” [paragraph 51]
He added, “The Director’s decision not to delegate fingerprinting to another police force is designed to preserve the independence of the SIU and is neither unfair nor unreasonable. Although the results of fingerprinting are unlikely to be affected by bias, this fact and the low level of inconvenience to the police officers is outweighed by the high importance of maintaining public trust and confidence in the SIU.” [paragraphs 57 and 58]
He also wrote, “In my view, requiring police officers to travel to Mississauga to be fingerprinted as SIU headquarters is not unreasonable. Granted that it may be inconvenient; however this is a long way from establishing unreasonableness.” [paragraph 75]
SIU Director Tony Loparco commented, “The SIU respects and welcomes the decision by the Superior Court of Justice. First, the practice ensures operational readiness by preserving the SIU’s limited personnel resources. Requiring forensic investigators to travel to other jurisdictions within the province to take fingerprints diminishes SIU response times and adversely affects the integrity of our investigations. Second, all SIU operations must be and appear to be independent in order to ensure public confidence in investigations. I am confident that the clarity the Court has brought to this contentious issue will be of benefit to all parties involved in SIU investigations.”
The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. Under the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU must
- consider whether an officer has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation
- depending on the evidence, lay a criminal charge against the officer if appropriate or close the file without any charges being laid
- report the results of any investigations to the Attorney General.
Monica Hudon, firstname.lastname@example.org
SIU Communications/Service des communications, UES
Telephone/No de téléphone: 416-622-2342 or/ou 1-800-787-8529 extension 2342