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News Release

SIU Concludes Investigation into Vehicle Injuries Sustained in Arthur Township

Case Number: 15-PVI-013

Mississauga (4 September, 2015) --- The Acting Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Joseph Martino, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to charge an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer with any criminal offence in relation to the injuries sustained by a 31-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman in Arthur Township in January of 2015.

The SIU assigned five investigators, two forensic investigators and one collision reconstructionist to probe the circumstances of this incident. As part of the investigation, seven civilian witnesses and three witness officers were interviewed. The subject officer provided a copy of his duty notes and consented to an interview with the SIU.

The SIU investigation found that the following events took place on Sunday, January 18, 2015:
• In the afternoon hours, the 31-year-old driver of a pickup truck left a gas station on Highway 9 in Harriston without paying for gas. The clerk at the station reported the theft to police providing a description of the pickup truck and indicating that it contained two occupants.
• The theft was broadcast over the police radio and the subject officer, operating a fully marked OPP cruiser and traveling north on County Road 6 toward Highway 89, was among the officers to pick up the call. Additional information came on the police radio indicating that the pickup truck was likely stolen and recently involved in another theft of gas. 
• The subject officer spotted the pickup truck while westbound on Highway 89 and followed it from a significant distance as it proceeded south on Pike Lake Road. The officer activated his emergency lights hoping the pickup truck would pull over. The pickup truck driver responded by increasing his speed. The pursuit proceeded east along 12th Line, then south on County Road 6 and east on Sideroad 3. The subject officer continued for some time on Sideroad 3 to keep pace with the truck, but soon determined that the roadway conditions were unsafe and broke off his active engagement. Snow, rain and sand (laid down by the township) had combined to produce slushy conditions. The officer slowed his cruiser, turned off the emergency lights and continued east. 
• The officer lost sight of the truck, but came upon the vehicle a short time later. The pickup truck had lost control, fishtailed on the slippery road and flipped before coming to rest on its wheels on the front yard of a home on Sideroad 3. The vehicle had sustained incredible damage, including significant crush on the roof of its cab. Both occupants of the vehicle, the driver and his 18-year-old female passenger, neither wearing a seatbelt, were thrown from the vehicle. The subject officer called for help and rushed to render assistance.
• The driver suffered multiple fractures and lacerations, and the passenger sustained internal injuries. 

Acting Director Martino said, “The offences that arise for consideration are dangerous driving and criminal negligence causing bodily harm pursuant to sections 249 and 221 of the Criminal Code, respectively. It is difficult to find any fault in the conduct of the subject officer in the course of his involvement in this incident. On the contrary, the officer appears on the evidence to have discharged his duties throughout in a professional and reasonable fashion. Given the information at his disposal, he was well within his rights to begin a pursuit of the pickup truck; he had good cause for believing it was stolen and that its occupants had just made off with unpurchased gasoline. The pursuit, from start to finish, travelled about seven to eight kilometres and lasted four to five minutes, during the course of which there is no reason to believe the officer drove dangerously or ran any unnecessary risks as far as the public’s safety was concerned, including the health and well-being of those in the pickup truck.”

Acting Director Martino continued, “The subject officer remained a fair distance behind the truck for most of the pursuit, had his emergency lights activated and was diligent in updating the OPP communications centre with his speeds, direction of travel, roadway conditions and the reason for the pursuit, ensuring that the sergeant with final command responsibility over the pursuit had the information he needed to do his job. The officer exceeded the speed limit, reaching speeds at times in the neighbourhood of 120 km/h, but that is to be expected in the course of a police pursuit. Aside from the fact that officers are exempt from the speed limit under the Highway Traffic Act when engaged in the course of their duties, the important point is that the subject officer had full control of his vehicle at all times and did not endanger any pedestrians or motorists in the vicinity as the pursuit route was sparsely populated and lightly trafficked. Nor did he speed or operate his cruiser so as to unnecessarily push the pickup truck driver or foreclose any opportunity for the driver to safely pull over. As for the roads, they were not in ideal shape because of the weather, but neither were they treacherous. When that changed as the subject officer came upon slushy and slippery conditions on Sideroad 3, and realizing that the pickup truck was not going to stop, he acted reasonably in the interests of public safety to disengage and slow down. Regrettably, about five seconds after the officer broke off the pursuit, the truck driver would lose control of the pickup truck and crash. In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the subject officer exercised a level of care that fell well within the limits prescribed by the criminal law.”

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, monica.hudon@ontario.ca
SIU Communications/Service des communications, UES
Telephone/No de téléphone: 416-622-2342 or/ou 1-800-787-8529 extension 2342