SIU Contemplates No Further Action in Custody Death in Perth
(4 December, 2015) ---
There is no reason to believe that an Ontario Provincial Police officer committed a criminal offence when a 62-year-old man died in his care, the Director of the Special Investigations Unit, Tony Loparco, has found.
The SIU assigned three investigators and one forensic investigator to examine the circumstances of this incident. As part of the investigation, one civilian witness, one civilian police employee, and six witness officers were interviewed. The subject officer – who was ultimately responsible for prisoners that night – did not participate in an SIU interview and did not provide a copy of his duty notes, as is his legal right.
The SIU investigation found that the following events occurred during the evening of April 7, 2015 and the next morning:
- Kemptville OPP officers arrested the 62-year-old man on an outstanding warrant for failing to appear in court.
- Around midnight, officers transferred the man to the Lanark County Detachment in Perth (the location of the outstanding warrant). He was placed in a cell.
- At the initial intake and every 15 minutes throughout the morning, a civilian guard checked on the man.
- At 8:30 a.m., the guard noticed the man was breathing heavily and that he was pale and clammy. An ambulance was called.
- The man was taken to hospital and pronounced dead.
The pathologist later determined that the cause of death was a perforated ulcer.
Director Loparco said, “I am unable on this record to find any fault with the conduct of any of the officers approaching that which would be required to ground a criminal charge. It is clear they did nothing that caused or contributed to the man’s death; an underlying medical condition was to blame for that.
“The issue, however, is whether they exercised a sufficient level of care while the man was in their custody.
“It is apparent that the man was kept under close watch while at the police station, and, on the totality of evidence, I am satisfied on reasonable grounds that the man was accorded a level of care that fell within the limits prescribed by criminal law.”
The SIU is an independent government agency that investigates the conduct of officials (police officers as well as special constables with the Niagara Parks Commission and peace officers with the Legislative Protective Service) that may have resulted in death, serious injury, sexual assault and/or the discharge of a firearm at a person. All investigations are conducted by SIU investigators who are civilians. Under the Special Investigations Unit Act, the Director of the SIU must
- consider whether the official has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation
- depending on the evidence, cause a criminal charge to be laid against the official where grounds exist for doing so, or close the file without any charges being laid
- publicly report the results of its investigations